Can You Fight Depression Naturally? Part Two: Exercise

*Side effects include increased muscle strength, mood enhancement, lower body fat, immune support, improved sleep, increased energy and cardiovascular health. Some may even experience weight loss.   

In this post, I posed the question: Can you fight depression naturally. It was met with some doubt by a few. With absolute certainty by others. Do not mistake my intentions here. I am not judging anyone for their choices. That is not my job. I have enough to do. I am also not prescribing anything. I have no right. I am a woman on a mission to do all things that I can naturally. And to avoid at all costs taking a synthetic medication that may or may not help, or that I may never be able to afford.

We have choices, all of us. Isn't that wonderful? I am trying to explore all of mine. I have no way of knowing how you deal with depression any more than a reader of mine knows how I deal with it. We would have to walk a mile in one another's shoes for that to be the case. I like my shoes just fine thanks, I will stick with them.

But let's walk side by side, being willing to lift one another and encourage! I am sharing some things I have read, tried, prayed about and put some hope in.

The biggest problem with climbing out of the dark hole of depression is that the things you need to do to get out are the exact opposite of what you want to do.

One Piece of the puzzle: Exercise!

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I remember a time when I used to shake my head at women I knew who said, "I just don't have time for exercise." I always responded with my ever so wise advice:
 You need to make time so you can be a better person for your kids and husband.

Well, guess what? My own exercise habits have been sporadic at best this past year. I rationalize that I am just too busy. And I am. More than ever. Maybe it's not a coincidence that It has been my hardest year emotionally as well. My young self really was wise. I should listen to her.

The Catch 22 is that exercise is perhaps the last thing one wants to do when feeling down.
Several events in our lives this year have left me a bit of a different person. I have experienced weight gain, shyness, apathy, and fatigue to name a few.

All of these things naturally make me want to sit on the couch and get lost in the world of Dr. Who. Then, of course, I feel guilty and ashamed of all I have neglected to do as a mother and it makes things worse.

How about if instead, I went for a walk? Or a swim, or took up belly dancing...well I won't, but you can! Go ahead, get those natural drugs (endorphins) going!

Regular exercise has been proven to:
  • Reduce stress
  • Minimize feelings of anxiety and depression
  • Boost self-esteem
  • Improve sleep
Exercise has wonderful side effects. It warms us. It makes our bodies stronger and healthier. It boosts the immune system, reduces body fat and helps improve body image. It also gives one a great sense of accomplishment. General improvement in health has been shown to reduce depression.
Even more so when done with a friend or a class where social interaction can further develop a sense of self-worth and emotional comfort. 

Most significant however, is that exercise triggers endorphins. Our own natural antidepressants. They give a feeling of general well being. But more than that, they are analgesic, meaning soothing to pain.

For those suffering from postpartum depression, I can not stress enough how important it is to get out and exercise. That act alone quite literally saved me from overwhelming despair. I was blessed to find a work out buddy. She walked beside me, encouraged me and helped me out of a dark hole.

I am under no illusions that running a 5K is a cure all for depression. It is part of a puzzle of good health that gets our natural pleasure centers revving. It also aids in reducing stress, incidentally that is the next part of the puzzle in fighting depression naturally.

The question is, how do you "just do it?" How do you get yourself motivated to get up and moving when all you want to do is pull the covers back up and sleep? Please share your experiences if you will.

 *Note: Nothing I share here can or should be construed as medical advice. These are my thoughts and ideas only, meant to spur anyone interested into thinking outside the box of traditional health care. Take the time to do your own research and talk to your health care professional.
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  1. There's no arguing with the fact that you feel great after exercise, even when you have to drag yourself to do it, kicking and screaming. :) Thanks for linking up to Let's Get Real. Great advice!

  2. Well, minus the blisters and sore muscles anyway!

  3. I've been fighting my depression naturally for the last 5 years drug free - so I would say yes...you can!

    1. I am sure that brings a lot of people hope Chrystal. Thanks for sharing.

  4. As a psych student we learned that statistically 30 minutes of cardio 3x a week was as effective for mild to moderate depression as a prescription. Amazing right!

    1. Are you a psych student that actually made it though? I am a psych drop out. But I do know a thing or two about exercise. And yes, it is amazing! And exhausting.

  5. This is SUCH good encouragement, thank you! LIke you mentioned, most often when I NEED exercise the most is when I am least inclined to do it :( This is encouraging me to make it a priority again...thank you!

    Stopping by from Titus 2 Tuesdays, Dawn from I Think We Could Be Friends.com

  6. I know for me, exercise helps me sleep better and be happier. After 8 pregnancies, my body was trashed. When I started walking, I could only walk for 15 minutes, and I would be exhausted! But I kept at it, and finally now I can run! Not fast, but I can run! Just getting out helps me a lot.

    Though I've had depression occasionally, I know that continuing to exercise has been a real blessing!

    1. I forgot to enter my website, cause it doesn't come up when you click on my name!


    2. I have had 8 pregnancies too. I like to blame my current state on that! Way to keep at it. I need to be more consistent.

  7. I have really started feeling depressed here lately, more than I have ever experienced before, and I also know excercise is the best cure for me. I think of taking medication and that makes me more depressed. So your post is helping me get motivation. Thanks

    1. This made me smile. I am sorry you are feeling so bad lately. I hope some of the tips I share help. Get out and get those endorphins going!! Thanks for sharing Cathy.

  8. I think just committing to something small is key. I'm trying to lose 15 lbs this fall and I'm starting small by committing to drinking 2 water bottles of water each day and doing something, anything remotely active. Later I'll worry about a true "work out" right now I'm just trying to get up and going and doing small baby steps. I think it's the same with this - and I love the side benefits of exercise! I always feel better when I DO something rather than just sitting and not doing anything.

    Nicole @ WKH

  9. Walks help me tremendously! I often use them as a time to talk with God, so they are doubly good! :) I can tell a big difference in my attitude/perspective after my walks. A big thing is to make your exercise a routine and do something you enjoy. At first they were a chore (part of my phy ed class in college) and over time, they became a routine, and now I can't go without them!

  10. It definitely can be hard to get motivated to exercise! I WANT to be a morning exerciser but I hate mornings soo much. I have a hard time getting out of bed for work, let alone an hour earlier to exercise! My husband and I recently did our very first 5k together and training for that was our motivation. Now we have another one coming up soon so it's a new goal to beat our previous time. I think continuing to sign up for 5ks will help motivate us to do better and better....until we actually enjoy it! Haha

  11. This encouraged me to go along to a keep fit class on Friday, and I was grinning thirty seconds into the warm-up. Thank you so much for motivating me. I have been reducing the amount of Prozac I take since the summer (with medical supervision) and have noticed the difference...but with exercise in my life I think I can manage my depression okay.
    You just got featured at http://mumtopia.blogspot.com/2013/09/CreativeHomeAndGardenHop11.html
    - please come over and grab your button!

  12. Thank you for sharing at Tuesdays with a Twist! We're live again this week. Come on over and share what you've been working on!

  13. It's much better to consider natural treatment when dealing with emotional problems. Medication might just worsen the scenario, just like what happens to those who abuse drugs. Anyway, engaging in physical activities, trying alternative treatments like acupuncture and other therapies are proven to relax both body and mind. Let go of the thoughts that drag you to sadness. Keep moving and be productive, so that you'll never have spare time to be down.

    -Shavonda @ AvicennaDenver