How to motivate yourself to exercise even when you feel depressed

The past two years have posed major challenges to both our physical and mental health.

With so many of us isolated from our homes — especially when gyms were intermittently closed for most of 2020 — we scoured the internet for The best home fitness equipmentBuilding gyms at home Plot by Plot and adapting to a completely different exercise experience. These limitations have presented exciting and innovative challenges to some fitness fanatics. But they also made exercise more difficult, resulting in fewer hours in the gym and lower overall fitness.

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Likewise, extra time at home has forced many of us to look inward, as distance from others presents a stark change to our social habits, and many of the mental hurdles we encounter along the way. studies It has already shown that the pandemic has left a huge mark on our collective psyche, with Kaiser Family Foundation Reporting increases in depression and anxiety disorder among respondents of all ages. The CDC has recommendations even for Dealing with stress Because of the madness these past few years.

Our brains and bodies work in tandem to help us function. But they don’t always see eye to eye. Even with the best intentions of staying fit, our mental health can sometimes prevent us from achieving our most primal fitness goals. Depression and anxiety can easily affect our sense of inspiration and raise self-doubt, leaving us wondering how to motivate us to exercise when depressed.

To better understand this link, we chatted with two experts who offered some excellent perspectives and tips for balancing our physical and mental health.

Mental health benefits of exercise

Before we get to how our mental health can do it Hinder Motivation to exercise Let’s look at the relationship inversely – how exercise affects our brains.

The exercise is widely known Mental health benefits. From a scientific point of view, exercise can help relieve stress, depression, and anxiety by releasing neurotransmitters like endorphins and dopamine, which boost our mood and increase our sense of happiness. exercise too Increases oxygen supply to the brain, which leads to the strengthening of memory and thinking. There’s a reason so many people tackle their fitness routine in the morning before heading to work.

According to Julia Delicio, RDN, CPT, increasing dopamine is critical in helping us resist more harmful, pleasure-seeking solutions.

“When we’re happy and satisfied, we enjoy dopamine — a ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter,” she said. “When we’re depressed, dopamine is depleted and we look for answers in food, drugs, or other pleasure-seeking activities.”

Fit guy in tracksuit standing with his hands on his hips at the gym, sweating after a workout

Fit guy in tracksuit standing with his hands on his hips at the gym, sweating after a workout

How depression and anxiety affect exercise

So we’ve proven that exercise (besides its obvious physical health benefits) can be a boon to our mental states. But according to Joseph Librizi, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker Working out in Colorado, when things like depression and anxiety creep in, even activities we know are helpful suddenly seem intractable.

“Besides reducing the likelihood of exercising and maintaining an exercise routine, depression and anxiety are negative states that involve a contracted or critical mindset, a negative view of oneself and the world, that feels true when we are in it and affects all aspects of our lives.”

Librizi suggests investigating this perspective head on. If you can question and question this temporary state of mind, says Librizi, you can start working through it and developing strong habits.

“You know that depression or anxiety, while realistically occurring, is not the truth about you,” he said. “It doesn’t seem natural. You know in general but especially from the times when it rises and you feel as if you are under the influence of magic. Exercise can be intentionally treated as a way to break a lying spell, and a way to go after what is true about you. Improving mental health and general well-being is its fruits.”

Librizzi also introduced the concept of limitations — the resistance to doing activities that we think are difficult or undesirable, like washing the dishes or going to the gym. Like our tendency to seek pleasure through unhealthy habits, a narrow or depressed mindset will also force us to seek freedom from tasks we don’t care about getting done.

“See how you seek freedom,” he said. “This could be from overeating, scrolling through your phone on social media, drinking, or overeating. Addictions of all kinds are related to how we respond to and seek to break free from limitations. Restrictions are not just facts. Washing dishes or feeling frustrated In traffic it’s not just negative facts. It’s negative because of our outlook, and it’s a form of awareness.”

How do you motivate yourself to exercise?

So how do you motivate yourself to exercise when you’re depressed? According to DeLissio, it pays to create a fitness routine that centers around the activities you already enjoy. This makes it much easier to create and maintain motivation.

“If you love to hike but force yourself to lift weight in the weight room, and find yourself skipping days, you’ll be worse off than if you were to start training for something you love,” she said.

DeLissio also suggests examining the two main types of stimulation.

“This source of motivation is weak and usually deteriorates when people stop validating your habits,” she said. “For example, he aims to lose 10 pounds so you can post a hot photo on Instagram. You shape your goals on the opinions of others, not the need to achieve them based on your own values.”

“An example of this is a weightlifter who is training because they enjoy lifting weights,” Delicio said. “They enjoy it, so they feel easy to train with. This type of stimulation is much stronger and leads to better adherence than external stimulation.”

Instead of relying on rewards or validation from others, look for activities that you find personally rewarding, especially as they relate to your health goals. And for those struggling with depression or anxiety, Librizzi made three excellent suggestions for engaging in exercise, all of which help you break up and communicate the experience more effectively.

How to motivate to exercise when you are depressed:

  1. Set aside a designated area for exercise. “This draws the mind and helps develop concentration of the mind.”

  2. Avoid the phone while exercising. “Be with your thoughts and feelings, with your resistance, and watch.”

  3. Practice with others. “You can integrate thinking about the human condition, and what we share in common, into your life and exercise routine.”

  4. Use the exercise as a form of physical self-awareness. “Caring for and caring for the body can become much more than just a physical relationship when we deliberately, consciously, engage in reflection on the nature of human life.

Regarding the concept of limitations, Librizi said, it helps to reframe your mindset about those activities that you consider limited or challenging. Librizi said that these activities, when approached with intent and awareness, can actually help you connect with and understand yourself better.

“Negative states of mind, and the narrow framework in which we view health, stand in the way of developing and maintaining healthy habits,” he said. “So we need to challenge our mindset, our way of looking at limitations, the effort, the routine, the ways we try to break free from the limitations that don’t actually make us free and full.”

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