Depression: 5 Ways How Fitness Became My Secret Weapon

Like an ever-present stormcloud; a thick, choking fog; or an invisible ball and chain, depression is something far too many folks, myself included, must deal with. It’s not easy: there are ups, and—oh boy—there are downs, but over these past few years, fitness has been a key factor in helping me find the “ups” and clear out a little breathing room in the toxic smog that seems to fill the world when under depression’s spell. Want to know how exercising can really help you cope better? Then read on for Depression: 5 Ways How Fitness Became My Secret Weapon!

1. Setting Simple Goals

While long-term fitness goals can help a lot of people, I find that depression makes it hard to comprehend anything further out than the ‘here and now’. Instead, I’ve seen more benefit in setting short-term, achievable targets when in the midst of a particularly ‘low’ period. It helps combat feelings of powerlessness and gives the mind something concrete—not to mention simple—to focus on. On those weeks where I’m liable to spend hours hiding underneath the covers, it’s no use trying to work on beating any of my running ‘personal bests’, but channeling my energy towards, say, running to a new part of town? Now THAT I can do!

2. A Balanced Diet for a Balanced Mood

Make no mistake; depression is more than just about feeling sad, and it certainly can’t be cured by merely eating right and exercising. With that said, the emotional stability that comes from eating a balanced diet of mostly unprocessed foods can’t be understated. Whether depressed or not, it’s hard—if not impossible—to feel good on a diet of junk food. I for one noticed a significant jump in my overall mental (and physical) wellbeing when I took an active interest in good food, nutrition and cooking.

3. Running through Brain Fog

You know television static? That fuzzy nonsense old TV’s used to display when there was no image being pumped into it? Brain fog can feel like the human equivalent of THAT, it makes holding even simple conversations nigh-on impossible. I used to struggle with especially severe brain fog, but without fail, the simple—almost primal—act of running was one activity that no amount of mental paralysis could could get in the way of. It may not have solved the issue, but running provided me with the much-needed respite from foggy headedness that couldn’t be found anywhere else.

4. Fitness as a Form of Self-Respect

Laying motionless, not washing, barely eating and wallowing in self-pity. Depression isn’t conducive to a lifestyle exactly brimming with self-respect. For me, however, working out helped start a cycle of self-betterment that seeped into every aspect of my day-to-day life. By using my body to exercise, not just…exist, I felt compelled to treat it better in other respects by engaging with life, washing, eating regularly, eating well and keeping busy.

5. Connecting with Others

Depression can alienate you from other people and make forming meaningful connections so much harder. By entering the world of health and fitness, I gained an all-new avenue with which to connect to friends, family and even strangers. Depression stopped me feeling ‘normal’, but engaging with fitness helped me regain some semblance of normality. Plus, the fitness community—so full of people focused on self-improvement and encouragement—served as another layer of subtle support throughout times where I otherwise would have felt completely alone.

Without my running shoes and local gym I’d undoubtedly be in a far worse off place with my mental health today. While it hasn’t been easy, and I’ll likely be coping with depression for the rest of my life, fitness has been a lifeline for me through some seriously rough patches. Do you feel a similar way?

How have your efforts in health and fitness helped you cope in this often overwhelming life? We’d love to hear some of your inspiring stories in the comments below, and feel free to join in the conversation on FacebookTwitter Instagram. If you’re still plagued by anxiety and doubt, here are 3 keys to help you!

Jamie Davies

Jamie is a freelance writer pursuing a career in journalism. After discovering health and fitness in early adulthood, he learnt to harness their feel-good effects for the benefit of his mental well-being. Hardly a day goes by where he isn't found pounding the pavement in his local forests, and a love for good food has helped him develop as an aspiring (if not always successful) home cook!

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