Activity Is A Key to Beating Depression
A loss of energy is one of the central features of depression. When people are depressed they find it hard to get out of bed, or interact socially, or get their work done, or take care of their children, or take care of themselves, or do the laundry, or answer the phone, or any other of life’s myriad activities.
It’s a sad irony that the path to overcoming depression is increasing energy, connection, and zest for life when energy is what is lacking in the first place. It doesn’t really seem fair does it? Depression is a state of having given up. It’s hopelessness about life and your place in it, your relationships, and how you feel about yourself.
But energy is an ambiguous term. It’s worth delving into where it comes from, whether it’s self-renewing, and how to get more of it. For the purposes of this conversation we are talking about psychic energy. In an existential sense, life activities and relationships that feel personally meaningful are energizing. Even though you have to expend energy on them, you always leave the encounter feeling more energized or at the least content and ready to confront life’s tasks.
Our culture is depressing in a lot of ways. Many of us work long hours at jobs that seem pointless and unfulfilling. We are told that happiness can be achieved by having. A new car, or a new t.v., or watching some stupid program, or making more money, or buying a bigger house is supposed to be the source of salvation. But they are all shams. When you feel a sense of meaning and purpose in what you do and how you relate to life you are in a state of mental health and not depressed. When you relate authentically to others and have meaningful relationships you are in a state of mental health and not depressed. But possessions offer no such promise.
In order to beat depression you are going to have to change many facets of your life. You’re going to have to change your perceptions of the world, how you relate to others, and how you behave. If you are not ready to change your life then a part of you wants to stay ill. But changing can seem overwhelming.
One place to start is exercise. Again, it’s a sad irony that the activities with the best chance of lifting you out of your depression require the most energy output. One thing science has shown us about depression is that the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin show up in smaller quantities in the brains of people who are depressed. Cardiovascular exercise increases levels of dopamine and serotonin. If you are not ready to start exercising every day then a part of you might want to stay ill. It’s a difficult truth to swallow but it’s as simple as that. Exercise, healthy eating, and meditation are three of the fastest ways to give you the energy to start making all the other necessary changes in your life. But they all take dedication and perseverance.
We recommend that you get a personal trainer if you can afford it. At the least join a gym. If you truly cannot afford either you can always go jogging. You need to exercise strenuously for at least thirty minutes a day. This means that by the end of the workout you will be sweating profusely. An exercise bike or treadmill will do the trick. Again this might seem overwhelming but if you are not exercising every day then you are not giving your body a chance. Exercise increases the deficient levels of dopamine and serotonin in your brain, which will automatically give you a sense of well-being.
Your self-esteem will also improve as your body starts looking better. You will feel more confident and have more stored up energy to use for other tasks. Exercise needs to be an integral part of your life for the rest of your life. You can’t stop once you start feeling better. Many people say that they do not have time in their busy schedules to exercise but these are just excuses. Your schedule is part of what got you into this mess and it’s time to start prioritizing. Exercise needs to be at the top of the list. We are only talking about thirty minutes a day. This is the length of an episode of ‘The Simpsons’. You can do it on your lunch break, or directly after work, or in the morning before you go to work. Whenever you choose to do it, now is the time to throw the gauntlet down and decide you are willing to do whatever it takes to get your life back.