Exercise helps depression but can seem like an insurmountable hurdle when you aren't feeling well. Even people who aren't depressed struggle with getting themselves to work out. It is hard to start an exercise regimen but also hard to keep it up. Old habits can creep back in and slow down your progress. Learn how to overcome depression and stay motivated moving forward.
In case you missed it, here are links to the previous posts about depression and exercise:
Feeling proud of what you accomplish will help you stay motivated. (This is true in all areas of life, not just with exercise!) When you set up goals and action plans thoughtfully it's easier to maintain motivation for exercise because the plan has achievable steps. Each time you accomplish your goal it will give you a boost that makes it is easier to keep going.
Make a big deal when you achieve the goal. Take the time to pat yourself on the back and say "I took care of myself today and achieved my goal of walking for 10 minutes! Great job!".
If you feel good about what you are doing it is easier to keep building on your success and stay motivated.
When someone is depressed, it is hard to feel positive feelings and pride. If you feel like this, I want to remind you that it is still important to say positive things to yourself. Take the time to celebrate even when you don't feel happy inside. This is how to overcome depression. The more you start to shift your mindset towards the positive the quicker you will begin to pull yourself out of the depths of depression.
Start to add more positive thoughts to your day by using mantras. Learn more about how to get started with these with 30 examples to get you going: 30 Healing Mantras for Depression
Plan out your exercise ahead of time. Is your goal to run 1 mile 3 times each week? Schedule it on your calendar and check it off when you are done. Make sure to keep putting it on your calendar week after week so that you stay motivated. Don't let excuses win. Motivation is hard when you are depressed so it's essential to plan ahead of time.
Don't schedule everything else you need to do and leave out exercise if you want to stay motivated. Life gets busy and if it isn't on the calendar it becomes an afterthought and feels optional. It will be harder to maintain motivation for exercise. Things that don't make it to your calendar seem less important than the items that made it into the books.
Enlist the help of a trusted friend or loved one to make your plan feel easier to start and maintain. There are lots of people that struggle to exercise so it is likely you have someone close to you that will benefit from the shared commitment and motivation for exercise.
Pick your accountability partner wisely.
It's important to enlist the help of someone that will increase the chance you will meet your goals. You don't want your friend to provide you more excuses to skip exercise than you give yourself. The ideal support person will not be someone who stresses you out or adds to the negativity in your life.
Find the right person and start this journey together. You can support and help each other to stay motivated.
Adding in exercise can be a key addition to your depression treatment. If you haven't already, sit down now and write your action plan, schedule exercise on your calendar, and get started right away. Use the above tips to help you stay motivated when depressed. Little by little chip away at the depression until you are recovered.
Be gentle with yourself. Recovery from depression takes time. Remember that depression plays tricks on your brain and can convince you that it is best to stay in bed because nothing will ever get better. Don't listen. Even if you don't believe it will make a difference, take the steps that are healthy for yourself. They will pay off in the end. You are worth it keep fighting!
Visit my blog to read more tips on how to recover from depression and anxiety. Add in as many interventions as you can to recover quicker and more fully!
Visit my Mental Health Bookstore for recommended books about depression and other mental health topics.
A version of this article first appeared here.
Dr. Melissa Welby is a psychiatrist that participates in people’s process of discovery, empowerment, and search for satisfaction and happiness. She treats a variety of illnesses including depression, anxiety & panic attacks, adult ADHD (Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorders), bipolar disorder, OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and borderline personality disorder. She is also the current president of the Connecticut Psychiatric Association.She completed her Internship & Residency at Cambridge Hospital, affiliate of Harvard Medical School, 2000 to 2004. Dr. Melissa Welby is Board Certified in General Psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, 2005 to present.