When I was deep in the darkness of my depression, it was almost comical to me when someone would tell me to “Just work out,” or “You probably feel down because you don’t exercise. You should go on a run every day and your depression will disappear!” I was not a fan of someone telling me this. I wanted to say to them getting up and making it to my therapist appointment once a week is sometimes too much. I wanted to say I sometimes have to take a shower sitting down, because standing up takes too much energy. I wanted to say I’ve been wearing the same clothes for 3 days now, because changing into fresh clothes is too much for me. Honestly, when I was severely depressed, exercise was the last thing on my mind.
First of all, give yourself grace if you haven’t worked out in a while. I know I need to. It can be hard when life, or depression, gets in the way.
The thing about depression is in order to feel better, you have to do the opposite of what your depression tells you. This can be overwhelming and difficult if you don’t know where to start. Start small. Make realistic goals for yourself. If you haven’t gotten out of bed in a few days, maybe don’t make your goal to go on a 3-mile hike. Instead, try going outside on a short walk. Making attainable goals for yourself will not only help you reach them, but help you feel good about yourself when you do.
Does your body feel really achy today and it takes all your energy just to get out of bed? Don’t get down on yourself for not doing a full workout routine that day. Take 20 minutes to stretch. Really take your time and be intentional with your stretches. This will help loosen your muscles.
My advice about exercising when you lack the motivation is to find what you like. You don’t have to spend 2+ hours in the gym every day to feel like you worked out. Do you like taking walks? Find a trail you love to walk and try to go on it multiple times a week. I bet you’ll find these walks lift your mood. Personally, I love to swim. My goal in the next few weeks is to try and swim laps at my gym pool three times a week.
Finding a buddy that can keep you accountable can be helpful. Schedule days each week you and your friend can move your bodies, whatever that may be. Biking is a nice form of exercise because it gets you outside. Giving yourself a destination for your walks or bike rides can help your motivation too. I love walking to the coffee shop near my apartment.
Make exercise enjoyable for you. Find some really good music that will get you pumped to move your body. Listen to a podcast or audiobook on a walk. Watch your favorite show while on the treadmill or elliptical.
Finding enjoyable ways to move your body is so beneficial for your mental health. I know it’s hard to get into the habit of working out. Believe me, I get it. Just know I am proud of you, however you moved your body today. If you didn’t reach your goal today, that’s OK. Tomorrow is a new day.
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