Depression and mental illness in general are well publicised topics these days. Figures show high numbers of people displaying clinical symptoms of depression in the modern day world. It is easy to speculate on what the cause of these may be. Personally, I feel that it is the drive to look for outside factors such as money, material items and relationships with others to provide us with our self worth, rather than looking to create inner change and understanding as a means of finding peace in life.
I also feel it is becoming increasingly “Not OK” to have periods of feeling low, and that social media allowing us to see everyone else’s ‘perfect life’ may make us feel bad when we are feeling low, because you’re not as Insta-happy as your friends, so you get depressed about being depressed. A vicious cycle indeed.
So before I outline physical methods that may help you feel happier, if you are depressed right now, tell yourself it’s ok to feel like that. Feeling low is part of being human, and that no one thing exists except as an opposite of something else. The state of happiness is only recognisable if the state of sadness has been experienced. So this period of feeling low is a great opportunity and will soon give you the recognition of the joy and peace that is to come for you.
So here are 5 things you could try if depression is becoming a problem for you, or could even lift you out of a short period of feeling down:
Do some “strength” training
I put “strength” in inverted commas for two reasons. Firstly, exercising purely for vanity reasons when depressed may create a dependency on your physical appearance that is reinforcing the looking outward for happiness. This may produce temporary results with self worth, but ultimately, appearance cannot last forever, so it is shaky ground on which to create inner peace. Training for strength rather than aesthetic gains would be preferable when depressed. Training to gain strength also has a great psychological benefit. Physical strength has long been thought to boost mental strength. So with all this in mind, do exercises like deadlifts, squats, chin ups and dips. Keep reps relatively low and look to increase the weight you can lift for a given number of reps over a certain period of time.
Depression can often go hand in hand with racing, uncontrollable and negative thoughts. Added to this, a depressed person is stressed, and this stress will manifest itself as excess tension in the body. Yoga, in it’s many forms, is designed to help you get into a meditative state by focusing on breathing, and to help reduce tension through the movements you perform. If you can find the right form of Yoga for you, and the right instructor, it is difficult not to feel more relaxed and more positive after a Yoga session.
Stretch every day
For the exact same reasons as doing a yoga session, stretching is a great thing to do, to still a racing mind and to reduce excess tension. If you can’t afford the time or money for Yoga, then stretching is a great alternative, but there is also no reason not to do a 15 or 20 minute stretch every day.
Train for a better posture
Good posture is essential in feeling psychologically well. Imagine now what someone who is depressed will stand like. You’re probably seeing someone who’s hunched over, shoulders rounded and with a general appearance of being rather heavy. If you can get into a better posture by standing tall, with shoulders back, your mood can quickly start to match this more confident and care free stance. Look at strengthening the external rotators of the shoulders and the depressors and retractors of the shoulder blades. Some work at increasing rotation through the mid back can be really useful as this area can become immobile when you are hunched over.
Lastly, you may be reading this, feeling depressed, thinking there is no way you could bring yourself to do any of that. Feeling depressed can leave you with little or no motivation, and no energy to do anything but the most basic tasks. As I said earlier in the article, that is OK. Having been depressed, I know that no amount of “pick yourself up,” or “you’re gonna be ok” does anything to help how you feel inside, and even I have let exercise drop away when severely depressed. So, do what you can at this point in time and be kind to yourself. Be mindful of how you feel one day to the next, and more than likely, you’ll see improvements, however small, as time goes along. And be safe in the knowledge, as you go through this, you’re being lead through a process that will allow you to be a stronger person who can tackle greater challenges in life in the future. Good Luck!