For the first 20-something years of my life, I was told that my depression was a life sentence I’d have to suffer through. So I listened to my doctor and my therapist and watched life happen to me, instead of taking action to create the life I wanted. This led me right to rock bottom.
After being hospitalized on suicide watch in 2005, I committed to changing my course, one action at a time. It turns out that hitting the treadmill was the action I needed. Working out helped me integrate my therapy exercises and boosted my mental resilience. Here are some of the ways that exercise helps me fight my depression:
1. Exercise provides a release when I’m feeling down.
Studies have found that people are less likely to relapse after recovering from depression if they exercise three times a week or more. When I was struggling, I reached for substances to help me escape the pain. Now, when I’m feeling especially down or anxious, I go for a walk or a run to relieve the darkness I’m feeling. I come back feeling lighter, even if the heaviness isn’t completely gone. Knowing that I am capable of taking action for myself helps me stave off hopelessness.
Fitness-focused people seem to be happier than most (probably due to the abundant endorphins). Being around happy people helps me feel happier, too. I met my best friend and my husband at the gym, and they inspire me every day to grow a little stronger, inside and out.