[Depression] Method 1: The Exercise Routine

I intend to use this blog for more than just lifestyle + creativity. I also suffer from Depression and intend on making that a vital part of the identity of this page.

Namely, by looking at all of the ways in which I try to battle it, without medical help.

NOTE Every one person needs their own treatment, and I 100% encourage you speak to a medical professional for their opinion. Do not only rely on self help methods. I have only started relying on these recently due to my own decisions and struggles with mental health practitioners. Though I feel better avoiding the NHS mental health system at all costs, this doesn’t mean you will, too. Please take care of yourself in the most sensible way possible, these posts are only to provide insight and advice on top of treatment.

Does exercise cure depression?

Hell no, not on its own. It helps boost lots of hormones through your system (that’s the science part I won’t dare to teach anyone) but on its own, it will never ‘cure’ depression or anxiety. To be completely honest, I don’t feel like there’s much ‘boosting’ going on here.

How did it help?

It offered me goals and a chance to improve myself. With time and patience, it gave me tangible evidence that I could get stronger and see the changes I can implement. It made me feel less helpless, and gave me a good identity boost. “I’m a strong woman” – it helped me say – even if in my mind I don’t believe it, I can flex and see it.

It also offered mindfulness, in the form of weight lifting. I was against myself, mono v mono, pushing my own goals, my own efforts and only comparing myself to, well… To myself. It wasn’t about how I looked compared to anyone else, it was about seeing the slow and gradual change in how much I could lift, and how strong my body felt.

I was no longer in a vessel of sadness or hatred. I was encased in a strong physical form, which felt nice for once. It didn’t conquer my self loathing or negative self image, but depression couldn’t take away the strength I felt. Not fully, even when I was lost in the dark places.

It also gave me focus. Something to think on when my mind needed help steering away from bad places. Planning when I would exercise. Will I try that new move I saw online? What are my weak spots, how can I get better?

How it didn’t help

Well. It didn’t get rid of the grey or miserable feelings, and didn’t increase happy feelings (despite what so many people told me).

I was still me, even though I was stronger, and still depressed. I was still struggling with motivation and getting to the gym in the first place. But when I finally got there, some days I could barely lift a 9kg dumbell, despite knowing I could Deadlift 60kg comfortably for 3 sets.

With depression, or without, your results can be inconsistent, which can lead to a spiral. It’s very important to remember that you will not always be on your A game. You will not always be improving. You will mostly stick to a middle ground, but sometimes you will fail.

Do not be hard on yourself. Go hard on the weights instead.

Exercise did not remove my issues with depression, and sometimes not being able to go and feeling guilty made it worse to the point that I considered giving up.

What did I learn?

I developed a sense of determination that I have never had before. I understood that passion doesn’t always mean having your heart full of bird song and glory, but sometimes it just meant doing something even though you don’t quite feel like it today.

Even though you’ll end up being a bucket of sweat that people are afraid to stand close to.

Yuck.

It helped me remember to go easy on myself, I might not be squatting 100kg now, but in time I will achieve this goal no matter what. So long as I am patient, consistent and keep giving it my all.

The Takeaway aka Tl;Dr

Lastly, I remembered to enjoy myself. I picked weight lifting as my sport for the past couple of years because I really really enjoy it. Maybe a little too much. I’m not great at it by any means, but I love it.

We all know how ‘fun depression’ feels, and though it’s muted I can still feel that same memory of what fun is like. Hell, sometimes I even do feel happy. But I think this is because of the lessons I’ve learnt, and because I’m doing something that works for me. 

So go out and find something to do that you love, that will help you push yourself and find pride in who you are. Find strength outside of your mind, and find fun even in its diminished forms.