Exercise Your Way Out of Winter Depression
It is a well known fact that exercise can alleviate depression and transform your day from gloom to enjoyment.
Getting outside and exercising gets your heart pumping and gives you the fresh air and sunshine your body craves.
Exercising indoors can help too but missing out on the fresh air is robbing you of the pleasures of nature.
When you increase your heart rate through exercise, you increase the volume of blood flowing through your body. Endorphins, also known as feel-good hormones, are released resulting in an elevated mood and reduction in feelings of depression.
In fact, many doctors recommend regular exercise to their depressed patients. It is a chemical and medication free treatment and encourages movement and activities in older adults to keep their joints working.
It may not be the ultimate cure for everyone, but you can exercise your way out of a winter depression.
Take a daily walk – Unless the weather is unsafe, there are a lot of value to getting out into the fresh air and sunshine. The sunshine stimulates the production of vitamin D which improves mood. It also helps your body manage stress and taking a walk gets your body moving without the pressure of fitness performance. The goal for good fitness includes walking for twenty to thirty minutes a day.
Stretch – Yoga, and other exercise programs that use mental focus, help you accomplish two things. They help you get your blood flowing to your muscles releasing endorphins. These exercises also help you to become mindful and focused, pulling you into the moment. You can feel calm, in control, and centered instead of worrying about tomorrow or regretting yesterday.
Dance and play – Many adults forget how to play! They forget about joy and laughter and often do not participate in activities they used to love. Find something that makes you laugh or brings joy, such as dance, martial arts, jumping rope or even riding your bicycle.
Run or jog – Running or fast walking, is a great way to burn calories and improve your fitness. If you are physically able to run even a short distance start with that. Fast walking will also help you to condition the body for running if you are out of shape. It is not about performance, speed and distance. You can simply embrace the activity as a fitness seeker. The health benefits are similar, the goal is to help boost your mental and physical health.
Swim – One of the reasons we can become depressed during the winter is the cold, gray weather and lack of fun activities. Join a swim club or find a gym with a pool where the warm water and the bright lights will help you feel better. If swimming laps isn’t your thing, join a fun water aerobics class. You can laugh and socialize while you get fit.
Meditation / Hypnosis – Working on mindfulness can also have a major impact on your outlook and mood and help to relieve depression. There are may recorded sessions, such as the one below which can help you to focus on your internal thoughts and to visualize your favorite time of year.
Think about the fun activities you did as a child or as a younger adult and take up those activities which made you feel good. Get outside and have a snowball fight, go sledding in the snow, climb a tree. (Safely of course)
In addition to the mental and physical benefits, which exercise offers, you will find you sleep better. Poor sleep patterns are often a sign of depression. Simply exercising and getting more and deeper sleep, can help you beat the winter blues.
You can help to beat depression by
- moving your body
- getting outside
- work out indoors
- visualization exercises
- play, laugh and have fun!
Seasonal Affective Disorder and related depression is real and may require treatment by a physician. If your feelings of depression are intense or you feel out of control, you should consult with a physician immediately. These suggestions are intended for minor incidences of Seasonal Affective Disorder and not to be considered medical advice or a treatment program.