Regular exercise is good for the psyche.
Unfortunately, it's often hardest to work up the motivation to move when one is depressed, tired or anxious – even though those are the times when exercise would be the most beneficial.
It is possible to adopt a healthier lifestyle, even when depressed. I am living proof that one shouldn't stop trying. I was a depressed, awkward and overweight teenager. My mom got me a membership to the YMCA because she didn't want me sleeping my life away. Since I didn't feel comfortable around my peers, she thought that I might actually enjoy being out of the house if I was surrounded by adults.
I took so many aerobics classes at the YMCA they they offered to train me to be an instructor. Leading aerobics classes started a positive domino effect. I became more active, my self-confidence improved and I evolved into a much happier person.
The understanding that exercise positively affects my mood has informed my entire fitness philosophy and improving my mood is typically the primary reason I train.
Here is my "mood-boosting" fitness philosophy:
1. Create "mood statistics"
For the next two weeks, rate your mood on a scale of 1 to 10 before and after exercising. One would represent feelings of "depression and disinterest in exercise and/or engaging with the world." Ten would represent feelings of "extreme happiness and excitement to be active and engaging with the world."
I have found that when people rate their mood from 1 to 5 before exercise, it is normally 6 or above after exercise.
When I don't want to exercise, I remind myself that my numbers are consistently higher after exercise.
2. Use the "10-minute rule"
Tell yourself that you have to move for a minimum of 10 minutes, but if you still want to stop after 10 minutes, you can.
The rationale is that breaking the workout into chunks will make moving seem less daunting. Plus, 10 minutes of exercise is better than nothing, so if you do stop, that's okay. Usually, once you have done 10 minutes, you will continue and finish the workout.
Walking is an inexpensive and convenient way to make sure you get at least 10 minutes of exercise. Try walking to work or on your lunch break. As a bonus, working out in natural light provides a double dose of seratonin, our body's natural "happiness" neurotransmitter. Being active outside will give you the strength to get through a hectic day at work.
3. Think about how your future self will feel
Before making a snap decision to skip your workout, walk yourself through how you will feel.
I tell myself, 'yes, if I skip my workout,' I can relax immediately, but the quality of my relaxation time will be compromised. I will be metaphorically kicking myself the entire time.
On the flip side, if I am active, even for 10 minutes, I will feel great and thus enjoy relaxing more.
4. Have multiple goals
Don't just make aesthetic goals. Aim to have more energy, sleep more and improve your self-confidence. The more reasons you have to be active, the more likely you are to continue to work out.
You don't need to train for a marathon to experience the positive mental effects of exercise. All you need is 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise three to five times a week.
When you need even more motivation to be active, remind yourself that exercising improves memory and reduces the symptoms of dementia.
Adopting a healthier lifestyle too often feels overwhelming. I have been there. Trust me, it does become easier to exercise regularly once you have established healthier habits since you (mostly) don't question if you should or shouldn't work out. Plus, when you exercise regularly, you develop a kinesthetic memory of how great you will feel postworkout, which will help to motivate you.
The main take-away is this: Some movement is always better than no movement. Don't stress about finding the perfect week to start training or the perfect workout. Just lace up your running shoes and go for a walk, even just for 10 minutes.