Tag Archives: exercise and depression

Depression Hurts: Healing Holistically

by Jennifer B. Christensen

Depression Affects EVERYONE!

There have been a couple of times in my life where I hit a mental health “bottom” and felt that I would never see the light of day again. I felt completely hopeless, helpless and wanted this world to disappear. There were many people in my life that judged me and would say that I was being selfish, since I had three beautiful children that loved me. I can understand where they were coming from, as this would NORMALLY be enough for anyone to want to live, but I was no where near “normal” when I was overtaken with complete depression.

Molecular Psychology
Molecular Psychology – Why We Become Depressed

Depression can hurt and not just mentally, but physically, emotionally and spiritually. Depression can tear apart families and forever ruin lives; many people still see it as a “hush-hush” topic, never wanting to reveal that they have or are experiencing some form of depression. It is this stigma around the topic that is creating more problems and validating the feelings of those that already feel worthless and unnecessary.

Depression Hurts

Depression can and does cause physical pain, according to WebMD. In fact, depression has many physical symptoms such as: headaches, back pain, muscle aches and joint pain, chest pain, digestive problems and many more other symptoms. We often self-diagnose ourselves and group our aches and pains into the category of “getting older”, dismissing the feelings that we are stuffing with more work, school, opposite sex, sex, alcohol or whatever helps us dismiss the true pain we are feeling.

Depression Hurts
Depression Hurts: Brain/Body Connection

In an article written by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), they found that depression and pain share the same neurological pathway. Your response to painful physical stimuli is moderated in the brain by serotonin and nor-epinephrine, which also affect mood. Your mood stabilizers are also your pain stabilizers, creating one big jumble of physical and emotional pain when you become depressed. In fact, patients with chronic pain often report having suicidal idealization and severe “episodes” of depression at a rate of 33% higher than someone that does not have a chronic illness.

Exercise and Depression

Despite the endless articles I have read on healing depression naturally, the most profound statement I have heard came from a conference I attended where one of the speakers was a woman who was in charge of patient care at The Betty Ford Center; “take a step, change a thought.” How many times have you gone for a walk, just boiling with anger. Someone has just added that last habanero pepper to your chili and you are over the

Habanero Angry
Habanero Angry

“HOT” gauge, you walk away from the situation and when you return you almost forget why you are mad.

A Harvard School of Medicine research paper sites that although it is unproven that a walk will alter your mood, exercising three to four times a day does have a proven effect on depression and mental illness. In fact, in the article it states that, “A follow-up to that study found that exercise’s effects lasted longer than those of antidepressants. Researchers checked in with 133 of the original patients six months after the first study ended. They found that the people who exercised regularly after completing the study, regardless of which treatment they were on originally, were less likely to relapse into depression.” Thereby proving that exercise is the best medicine for mental illness.

Exercise? I Can Barely Get Out of Bed!

Yet, there are many that reach so deep into depression that getting out of bed is a victory in itself, forget about even thinking about exercise. When you have gotten to this point, I want to assure you, there IS hope. There are things you can do to help relieve even the worst cases of depression. In an article titled, 7 Ways to Manage Clinical Depression,” the author lists seven ways to get out of bed and move into the thought of getting past the front door. My favorite tips in this article is Go Easy and STOP TRYING. Don’t be so hard on yourself, when you make it out of the bed for an hour a day, CELEBRATE your victory. When you have the energy to make a meal, CELEBRATE your victory. Those small things deserve praise and gratitude. Be grateful for EVERY small victory, no matter how small.

My favorite tip though; STOP TRYING. The article points out that when you believe the “normal” will help and then it doesn’t, it just makes you feel worse. I hate to point out the obvious, but the “normal” people in the world are often the most abnormal and thereby making their treatments only viable for them. Be the abnormal and accept that the “normal” is not you and you are your own person that was created just the way you are for a reason. I have come to appreciate the statement, “Acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it brings something entirely new into this world. That peace, a subtle energy vibration, is consciousness” – Eckhart Tolle. I have accepted that I am not the “normal’; in fact I delight in knowing that I am not “normal,” I am conscious of the world around me and know that they are not “normal” either and for that I am grateful.

Holistic Healing
Exercise or Illness?
Exercise or Illness?

There are endless quotes that come from “diet and exercise,” but nothing could be closer to the cluiche than with depression. Foods (healthy) can and will change and enhance your mood, as will unhealthy (fatty) foods alter and worsen your mood, leaving you feeling sluggish and tired. There are many yummy, healthy foods that can alter your mood positively such as: blueberries, avocados, chamomile tea, asparagus, oysters, dark chocolate, oranges and turkey. There are also essential oils that you can put in a difuser or wear that can enhance and improve your moods, such as: lavender, chamomile and valor. For over 3,000 years the Chinese have practiced the healing arts of massage therapy and acupuncture and have found great success with these “non-western” forms of medicine. In fact, massage therapy can not only relieve depression, but can also help ease the pain caused by chronic illnesses. There are many forms of holistic alternatives to pharmaceuticals, but it ultimately comes down to you knowing what is best for you. There are many people that need pharmaceuticals to maintain a healthy and balanced mental status, but to you I still suggest balancing all parts of your life and that includes diet, exercise, meditation, friendships, soul food and service to others.