Exercise helps us feel calmer, happier and have more energy.
Here are just a few good reasons to include exercise into your day:
- Exercise can instantly boost overall mood.
- It stimulates the body to produce the body’s natural feel-good hormones which can make problems seem more manageable.
- Exercise can act as a distraction to give us a break from current concerns and damaging self-talk and rumination.
- Exercise provides relief from mental stress. And also improves the brain’s response to stress.
- In some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed.
- Physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image regardless of weight, size, gender or age.
- Chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders calm down and can reduce anxiety sensitivity.
- Research shows that regular exercise boosts creativity and improves productivity
- Exercise helps us to have more energy.
- Regular exercise has been shown to improve quality of sleep and improves the body’s circadian rhythms.
Even though we know it’s good for us…
However, even when we know the benefits of exercise, many people who are struggling with stress, anxiety, and/or depression don’t take advantage of the incredible positive effects of exercise for one or more of the following reasons:
- I don’t have the energy
- I’m too busy, I don’t have time
- I don’t have any desire to exercise
Let’s address these issues
First of all, let’s validate your feelings and frustrations. Of course its true that people who are struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression already feel overwhelmed and the idea of adding exercise can seem daunting. However, there’s a way to work in harmony with the reality that you’re facing.
Let’s rethink “exercise” and addresss these issues. It may seem counter-intuitive, but exercise actually increases energy. If you want to have more energy, then adding some form of physical fitness is the answer that you’re looking for. Don’t feel guilty or think that you’re wasting time. Remember that some of the benefits of exercise are improved productivity and better creativity. That means you can do more in less time, if you make the effort to take care of yourself.
Find something you enjoy
You don’t need to do something that you don’t enjoy. Start with something short, easy and fun. There are so many options, you just need to find something that you like doing. For example, I don’t like jogging. Jogging feels like a punishment to me, but I enjoy riding my bicycle. Riding my bicycle feels like playing. Riding a bicycle may not be the answer for you, but there is something that will work for you and will still count as “exercise.”
Experiment until you find something that you enjoy. Here are a few suggestions:
- Playing racquetball
- Playing basketball
- Going for a walk
- Tai chi
- Weight training
- Stationary bike
Another “secret” to enjoying exercise
Here’s another tip. When it’s too cold outside for me to ride my bicycle, I spend time on an eliptical machine. I like the eliptical machine because it’s low impact and doesn’t hurt my joints, but that’s not the real secret. The real secret to enjoying the eliptical machine is that I find a good show to watch while I’m exercising. When I’m watching something that I enjoy, I don’t even notice the time go by and the exercise is done before I know it. Obviously the same thing would work when using other stationary exercise equipment like a treadmill or stationary bike. Distraction is the key.
But I don’t have time to exercise…
There are things we can do for exercise that take 5 minutes or less. Some exercises take only 60 seconds. Anybody can fit one minute into their daily routine. These simple actions can be an excellent point to begin when the very idea of “exercise” sounds overwhelming. Imagine the satisfaction of being able to say “I exercised today.” You can absolutely do this! Here are a few suggestions of exercises that take 5 minutes or less:
- Dance (one song lasts about 3-4 minutes and it has the added benefit that comes from listening to music)
- Spend a few minutes stretching
- Do a short tai chi routine
- Practice a few yoga poses
- Jumping jacks for 1 minute
- Wall sit for 1 minute
- Push ups for 1 minute
- Sits ups or crunches for 1 minute
- Holding a plank position for 1 minute
Video on 1 minute exercises
Emotional First Aid Kit
An emotional first aid kit can provide an immediate, although temporary, positive effect on the way we think and feel. Having an emotional first aid kit readily available can help people who are struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety, low self esteem, or other mental and emotional issues.