If you have clinical depression and you've gone through some pretty intense and debilitating depressive episodes the last thing you feel like doing is getting up and moving around. In fact, you may be at a point in your life where you sleep a good part of the day and struggle just to get up out of bed to go to the bathroom. If you're lucky you're at least able to do what I did for quite a while, namely, watch television, make something to eat when absolutely necessary, use the bathroom, and sleep. Does that sound like you?
Now I need to ask you, if you're sick and tired of being sick and tired, how is that working for you? Not well at all, I'm sure. Clinical depression puts you into a "psychological catch 22". In order to beat depression or at least the symptoms of depression, you need to battle it head on. But that takes emotional and physical strength which is in rather short supply because of the depression. Ultimately however, you need to be proactive in order to fight your depression. Psychotherapy, medications, different coping skills, and support are all available to you. But you are the one that must take an active role in helping yourself by using what is available.
One of the quickest, easiest fastest, and cheapest coping skills you can use to fight your depression is walking. All you need is a decent pair of walking shoes and you're good to go. To start, a 10 minute brisk walk is all you need. Ideally, you should work your way up to 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week. There are numerous physical benefits to a good brisk walk such as weight loss, lower blood pressure levels, improved muscle mass and tone, etc. But as someone who has depression, you should also be familiar with the following 7 psychological benefits of walking:
1. Increases serotonin levels - People with clinical depression have lower levels of serotonin ( a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well being ) in their brain. Brisk walking will naturally cause those serotonin levels to rise and you'll begin to feel better within a short period of time.
2. Improves self confidence and self esteem - Set some goals for walking. They should be small attainable goals at first. Then increase your distance over time. Start a walking journal and record the results. You can always change your goals if necessary You will be surprised at how much your self confidence and esteem will improve by being proactive and attaining your goals. I know I was.
3. Positive coping skill - Unfortunately some people will resort to negative behaviors such as, drinking, drugs, or cutting, when they are depressed. Even ignoring your depressive episode by doing nothing is not a good idea. Walking is an excellent example of a positive coping skill that you'll need to empower yourself to work through future depressive episodes.
4. Walking feels good - Walking simply feels good, unlike other strenuous activity that usually only feels good once you stop. The body and mind have a very powerful connection. When your body feels good, so does your mind.
5. Promotes positive cognition - As you walk and you are in the moment, it will be easier for you to take your mind off depressive thoughts and focus on your walking and interactions with the environment.
6. Provides a social support system - Initially, you might not be ready to walk with anyone else. But over the long run a walking buddy can provide the social support you need to help you with your depression,. especially on those days when your down and feel like doing absolutely nothing.
7. Effectiveness is backed by positive scientific evidence - Scientific research has proven that walking improves an individual's mood and self worth and reduces the symptoms of depression.
Make sure you talk with your family doctor before you start any walking program. If you've been on medication or have been going through psychotherapy, don't stop. Walking is an outstanding compliment, not substitute for standard treatment. Finally, you might want to make a copy of this article and reread it as an incentive any time you feel so down that you don't want to walk. It might be hard at first, but I know you can do it. Now get out there and start feeling better. Happy walking.