Exercise devotees know it well and now Doctors and Psychologists are realising it too – exercise does make you happier and even prevents and can treat depression. Psychologists and General Practitioners now regularly prescribe exercise as a treatment for depression.
Often the underlying cause of depression or anxiety cannot be specifically pinpointed, but they know that exercise in concert with cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective way to treat these potentially debilitating conditions. If exercise for the sake of your physical wellbeing is a motivating force then exercise to feel happier should have equal billing as a driver for undertaking some more physical activity.
Anyone who exercises regularly will tell you about how good it feels physically but they will also be aware of the mental benefits. Many busy people exercise as a way to relax and wind-down and guard against the damaging effects of stressful jobs. In a way they are self-medicating on exercise and while this not necessarily ideal, it is preferable to needing to take anti-anxiety medication.
While not being stressed in the first place is a better scenario, few of us have much choice in the amount of stress we have to deal with because it is imposed upon us and outside our control. Exercise is something we can control and is a great counterbalance to the hustle, bustle and stress of everyday life.
Others just exercise because they know it’s good for them, there’s a general sense of wellbeing and wholesomeness associated with spending an hour doing something physical whether it be walking, jogging or lifting a few weights. Your breathing feels clearer, you have a spring in your step and your brain is functioning like a well oiled machine – in fact, some exercise is a great way to re-boot your brain.
For those who like to push things a little more, then the exercise payoff gets greater again – going hard on the bike or finishing off you jog with a bit of intent releases a whole bunch of endorphins that race around your body and give you a natural high that lasts for many hours. And because you’re physically fatigued at the end of day you’ll find it much easier to relax and get to sleep at night.
And you can share this feeling with a friend, family member or if you play a team sport, with your team-mates.
Exercise is a great way to schedule some pleasurable social activity into your week. Two of the main treatments of depression are to undertake regular physical exercise and to keep up your social interaction – why not do both together?