How I Subdue my Depression with Physical Activity

Depression and activities are on friendly terms, when I get more depressed, I would do less activities and when I am in my normal mood range, I am relatively more active. Knowing that this two elements are somehow correlated, I like to share my personal journey about taming my Depression with Physical Activity.

Perhaps it is how this illness present itself. When depressed, I lose interest in many things to the extent that I am not concerned of its progress nor outcome. In this apathetic condition, I am not motivated to cook meals nor do the laundry. My family will be the first to feel its effects as taking meals is a daily occurrence. By the end of the second week, clean clothes become short in supply. Do I feel bad for not preparing meals? I felt numb then. Do I feel irresponsible for not doing my job for laundry washing? Yes and no as I felt lifeless most of the time.

Often I wonder about my behavior, is it my illness or is it me being a lazy and unreliable home-keeper? I no longer know and the more I ponder, the more unmotivated I become. Or perhaps my thinking are just excuses to avoid work.

So be it an illness or a character flaw, the reality is how to counter my spiritless apathetic lifestyle. How is physical activities related to depression. It seems that by doing one thing, followed by another thing, then after another thing, being active physically proves to be effective in tackling depressive symptoms like lethargy, sleepiness, overeating or not eating, apathy, helplessness.

My Morning Challenge … Waking Up

Mentally I do not look forward to waking up, so to kick-start the day (standing on my feet), I will think of watching online drama as a beneficial token for my effort to get up from the bed. Before I enjoy the benefit from visuals, I need to wash up and change into my day attire; and to prepare the breakfast, I will need to boil water to make coffee, spread the butter on the bread. While waiting for the water to be boiled, I’ll put the clothes into the machine for washing. The broom and dustpan is at the laundry area, I pick them up and begin sweeping the floor. Last but not the least, I return to making coffee, and have my breakfast while watching drama, and wait for the washing machine to finish its job.

I know the downside of online drama-watching, it’s a passive activity, in the sense that I will likely be stationary in front of my lab top for countless and endless minutes. This passiveness will ensue with sleepiness and my return to the bed for long naps. To counter it, I have clothes to hang dry when the machine finishes the washing cycle.

For me, online dramas is the bait I used to get myself out of my bed. It’s also the positive reinforcement that I reward myself after doing undesirable household chores. Strangely, the momentum I kick-start with a fair bit of physical activities, builds up bit by bit. It serves as a distraction from my negative thoughts and feelings.

Taking A WalkExercises … Keep the Body Moving!

In my depression dump, when apathy sets in, I push myself to exercise, which is a physical activity. Walking is a convenient and cost-free strategy, and its intensity level can be adjusted to my level of mood along the spectrum. The challenge is how I get myself out of the house when I am withdrawn and hiding in the comfort of home. The bait with a reward system helps sometimes. Quite often, I have nothing to do or rather being too much preoccupied with negative thoughts and feelings, a short walk becomes a break from the vicious downward spiral of depression.

So when my mood is very low, I walk in the neighborhood for 10 to 15 minutes and I can do so twice a day, morning and evening. For me, taking walks by myself helps in the sense that I look around at buildings, gardens, the clouds, the traffic, anything that will keep my focus away from my negativity.

When the mood is better, I will start brisk walking and increases the exercise to 50 minutes. My pedometer keeps track of the number of steps I cover, and looking at the number increasing to 10,000 steps each day is constructive strategy (I want to maintain the 10k record). When the mood has normalized, I will go for the weekly badminton games, a much more intense and physical activity.

Mid-way Setback … how now?

The morning challenge bait-and-reward system and exercises are two forms of physical activities that are not fail-proof. Often, rather many times I find myself refusing to wake up. Countless times I am unable to go for a walk, even for a minimum requirement of 10 minutes. The feelings are numb, lacking in responsiveness while I go through the motions in living. So what to do … how now?
Record Setting - an Upward Trend

One thing for sure, when I set the record to be up and doing some form of physical activity, there is unknowingly a deep desire to keep the record going. Usually with the momentum kick in, I yearn silently for the uplifting ride up the normal mood range. What about stubborn setbacks that are challenging beyond my means, I have to reach out for help to anyone.

Making connection with my inner circle of friends is critically essential. Companionship do works like taking a walk with my sister, talking about anything or everything with a friend (though most of the times it’s the other party doing the talking), and email to my psychiatrist. Likely an appointment with the psychiatrist will be brought forward, and to make sure I keep to the ‘date with my Psychiatrist’, I strongly request someone to go with you.

Do Physical Activities Always Work?

Personally I believe it does. When I lack mental strength and being submerged in the deep sea of depression, physical actions lighten my mood. I may be overwhelmed with pessimism while doing simple task like brushing my teeth or making coffee for breakfast. The range of physical and mental challenges to do something opens up to a ray of light through the window of opportunity, a chance to feel good.

The Way …

SpeedometerOne way (or rather the way) to subdue negative thoughts and feelings is to do physical activities. The body movements are like the car engine being ignited, ready to push my energy level up to Gear-One-mode. I may stand still (neutral gear) then after or the car dies off on me, it is all right. Keep keeping on, seek for the slight ray of sunlight seeping through the window, strive for the life chances to feel better.

8 thoughts on “How I Subdue my Depression with Physical Activity

  1. This is completely true. Not only does physical activity help someone with depression know that they accomplished something, doing things like a walk or a small workout gets your adrenaline running and therefore releases endorphins. This helps people get that natural “high” that helps elevate energy and mood levels. Thank you for this information!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I’m glad we think likewise about the pros of physical activities. Cheers!

  2. My cousin suffered depression on and off for many years. One thing that he was constantly advised to do was light exercise, and specifically brisk walking. I know that this helped him as I could see the difference in the periods he did do his walking. Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough by itself to help and he still had to take some medication to help him along. It’s so sad to see someone you love suffering like this and knowing there is not really much you can do to help.

    1. Yes, physical activities by itself is insufficient. I am on medication, and combined with exercises or some form of physical activities, they lessen the frequency of relapses. I still get depressed, but not for long (as in weeks), rather I would feel down for a few days and able to work with significant impairment after.
      When I was down and withdrawn, no amount of external help can make me feel better. But silently, I am grateful to my family and close friends, who persistently try to engage me into their conversations and daily activities when most of the time I was unresponsive. They have been patient with my peculiarities. So be encouraged, your perseverance will rubbed off on your cousin. Knowing my family and friends have not given up on me is a lifesaver.

  3. Really enjoyed your article.

    I used to suffer from extreme stress, for no apparent reason.

    Physical exercise along with meditation have transformed my life.

    Sometimes I feel lazy too, or not in the mood, but I try to push myself and when I start exercising, I don’t want to stop…

    Maybe you should try meditation. I have found that it works great in calming the mind and putting the thoughts in an order, at least for me!


    1. Thank you for taking your time to read my blog. I’m happy to know you’ve enjoyed it.

      I’ve tried mediation In my younger days. Nowadays, I do deep breathing and it does lower the level of anxiety.

      Let us keep keeping on, to strive to seek but not to yield. Cheers!

  4. Thank you for sharing your life with us and giving us some ways of alleviating depressive type illnesses which seem to be increasing as the years go by. It must be the modern stressful lifestyle that we endure as a species.
    There is no doubt in my mind that physical and mental activity is of great benefit for this disorder and you must be a strong person to push yourself as you point out that sometimes you just don’t want to do anything at all.
    I was given a ‘fitbit’ by my husband and it really does help to keep me moving. I have a desire to reach those 10,000 steps every day.
    I notice from one of your remarks answering a comment that you do take medication. Pharmaceutical drugs are known to deplete certain nutrients especially magnesium and research has proven that many benefit from a good quality supplement. Most people with these conditions are found to be deficient in this vital mineral. It certainly helped me.
    Does music lighten your mood when you’re down?
    Great post, thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for reading my blog and giving comments.

      I’m unaware about pharmaceutical drugs can deplete certain nutrients, I’ll do some research on that. But I do believe supplements help. My goal is to replace my medications with supplements and fine-tune my managing skills for the illness. 

      When I’m in my low mood, regardless of mild or severe, music do not help me. But it does soothe my mood when I’m anxious or frustrated.

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