How Does Exercise Help Depression?

Believe it or not, exercise is actually one of the most recommended ways to fight depression.

Although for severe cases of depression, exercise isn’t enough to completely manage it, it can still be extremely helpful.

According to Dr. Craig Miller, a professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, for more mild cases of depression, exercise can be as helpful as antidepressants.

But, this begs the question of why exactly?

Depression is a mental illness; so why does exercise, which is meant to help you physically, seem to help with depression?

Well, scientists have discovered a couple of reasons why exercise is helpful for fighting off depression.

In this article, we will go over those various reasons and explain them in a bit of detail.

Exercise triggers the release of feel-good endorphins

Various kinds of exercise, especially high-intensity exercise, trigger the release of endorphins into your brain.

Endorphins are chemicals that essentially make you feel good. It’s a hard feeling to describe, but for many, the feeling is downright addictive.

When the endorphins are released, you feel energized, confident, and happy. Many of you have no doubt heard of the concept of a “runner’s high” before.

Well, there is a reason they use the term “high” to describe it.

The flood of endorphins that runners experience is unlike anything else and many do actually get addicted to the feeling.

Long-term exercise can actually heal and improve your brain

Endorphins can help with depression, but the feelings caused by endorphins do wear off eventually; so, they represent more of a short-term aid for depression.

However, exercise does have long-term, positive effects that can help with depression.

Scientists have found that regular exercise done over a long period of time (months, years, etc.) triggers the release of “neurotrophic features.”

These neurotrophic features actually make your brain healthier and help fight against a variety of mental illnesses, including depression.

It’s a distraction

Depending on the type of exercise you do, it can be a very effective distraction.

Things like stress, anxiety, and depression will always be there, but it’s helpful to have something to distract yourself during particularly rough periods.

Exercise, especially things like weightlifting, aerobics, yoga, and other exercises that are intricate and require focus are great ways to distract yourself during rough periods.

These are three, scientifically backed ways that exercise can help you and others fight back against depression. It may not be a cure in and of itself, but it’s certainly very helpful.

How Does Exercise Affect Your Mental Health?

We hear about the benefits of exercise all the time, whether it’s a new workout programme being rolled out at the local gym, or our parents telling us we need to exercise more for the sake of our health.

However, apart from the physical benefits of toning up, losing weight and improving your heart health and various other organs, there are also psychological benefits that make exercise all the more worthwhile.

Reduce stress levels

It’s true that exercise can help you to become more stressed.

This is partly due to the fact that you feel like you’ve achieved something during the day and you feel like you’re being kind to your body.

When you exercise, your body releases more norepinephrine, a hormone which combats stress and helps you deal with stress and tension in the future too.

Feel happier

Working out for just half an hour a day can help you to feel much happier than you currently do.

Exercise releases endorphins which is the same hormone released when you hug the people you love or experience something that makes you very happy.

It’s scientifically proven that exercise improves the way you feel.

Get more creative

You might be surprised to hear that exercise can boost your creativity levels for around 2-3 hours after you’ve finished exercising.

If you’re desperate for some inspiration, whether it’s for a poem, an invention, a painting or a song, you might find that hitting the gym will do just the trick!

Improve self-confidence

Have you ever spoken to somebody who said that they felt worse about themselves after regular exercise sessions?

Working out on a regular basis will help you to feel better about yourself, not only because you’ll be improving your physical condition but you’ll also be helping your mental health too.

Sleep better

With better sleep, so many things in your life will start to improve. You’ll feel more focused and more concentrated and able to tackle anything that comes your way.

However, if you’re struggling to get to sleep, this could become a massive problem.

There are ways to combat sleeping issues, and the first thing you should try is regular exercise.

Don’t worry if you’re not doing an intense workout at the start – you can always build this up and even just a little bit at the start will help you to snooze easier and better.

How Exercise Can Help You Sleep Better

Are you tired of waking up every morning exhausted because you didn’t get anything close to a decent night’s sleep?

Are you afraid of taking sleeping pills or other risky medications to try and get a good night’s sleep? If so, there is a potential solution to your problem, exercise.

That’s right, exercising regularly can not only help you get to sleep easier, but it can also improve the quality of sleep that you get.

In this article, we are going to explore the connection between exercise and improved sleep quality.

Exercise improves your sleep quality

In order to feel truly rested, you have to get a certain amount of hours of really good quality sleep.

More specifically, you have to get at least a few hours of what is known as “deep sleep.”

Deep sleep is the stage of sleep that comes after REM sleep (which is when you do the majority of your dreaming).

It is the stage where your body does the bulk of its resting and recovering.

Study after study has shown that exercise increases the amount of time spent in this deep sleep stage, which in turn results in you feeling more rested the next day.

Exercise can increase the amount of sleep you get

Another benefit of exercise is that it can increase the amount of sleep you get.

The reasoning behind it is fairly straightforward. Exercise expends excess energy, enabling you to get to sleep faster.

Even though a lot of people feel exhausted when they come home after work, they still actually have a lot of pent-up energy in their body.

Exercising helps burn off that last bit of energy that can make going to bed on time a hassle.

When to exercise

Knowing when to exercise is important if you want to improve your sleep quality.

See, if you exercise too close to your bedtime, you will end up making it even harder to go to sleep. This is because your body produces adrenaline when you exercise.

So, if you exercise then hop into bed, you are still going to have all that adrenaline running through your body.

Ideally, you want to exercise roughly 2-3 hours before your desired bedtime.

Likewise, don’t make your exercise too rigorous.

Rigorous exercise also produces a lot of adrenaline. Light cardio is the best exercise to do if you want to fall asleep easier.

Save the weightlifting and sprinting for another time.

5 Ways To Improve Your Listening Skills

Unless you are a naturally world-class listener, you’d probably have had experiences where people caught your mind wandering off while you were supposed to be in an engaged conversation.

It happens.

You might make a joke out of it or dismiss it as nothing.

But imagine how you would feel if you were sharing some deep emotional stuff or critical business information and the people who were supposed to be attentive were not listening.

We are all naturally inclined to “want to be heard” whenever we are talking. The tough part is that the mind tends to drift off whenever someone talks for more than 14 seconds.

Being a good listener can really put you on top of someone’s list of people he likes. And depending on what type of relationship you have with that person, it could mean a lot of good things going your way when you have been tagged as a good listener.

The irony is that you don’t really have to be a good listener in order to reap the rewards of being one. You can also pretend to be one and get the same results.

Here are some tips you can use to train yourself into a better listener or at least be perceived as one.

1) Make a commitment

Granted. Important discussions and casual conversations that require you to really listen does not happen all the time. But when a time comes where you know that you have to get in gear, make a mental commitment to listen.

While we are incapable of giving interactions total focus all the time, we can DECIDE which conversations to activate the attention switch.

Don’t get distracted by anything around you and attempt to give 100% focus.

Imagine if your smartphone suffered a hardware problem and you decided to get the spare part and replace it yourself. You would undoubtedly give your phone surgery 100% attention and focus while doing the task.

If you are able to do that, you can do the same with listening.

2) Look the part

There are some instinctive reactions people make when truly listening. You can copy these behavior to at least make it appear like you are listening.

The talking party would absolutely love it 😀

  • Nod
  • Frown
  • Smile
  • Laugh
  • Raise eyebrows
  • Use affirmations like “Yes”, “Alright”, “Go on”, etc

3) Offer feedback

Giving feedback as a response is one of the most effective techniques to ensure the speaker feels listened to.

How else would you be able to do that unless you were listening?

3 types of feedback are known to be able to achieve this effect.

  1. Practice empathy
  2. Paraphrasing
  3. Repeat the last sentence as a question

Let’s use this sentence as one said by the speaker, and use examples of all 3 ways to respond.

“It’s 9pm and I can’t believe that I’m still in the office! This job is shit!”

  • Empathy: Wow I would be livid if I was still working at 9pm.
  • Paraphrasing: Still in the office at this time. That’s a demanding job.
  • Repeat: 9pm and you are still in the office?

Giving feedback don’t just enable a speaker to feel listened to, it also encourages him or her to talk more and elaborate on the topic. This why listening skills is a key trait of great negotiators.

4) Never talk over the speaker

Interrupting and talker over someone else can be a useful tactic in school debates and fierce negotiations. But it is never a good thing to do when you want to the other party to find you as a good listener.

I understand that sometimes, a comeback has to be inserted into a conversation in order to achieve the best desired effect. So you need to make a judgment call on this one.

If in doubt, let the speaker finish before your comeback or rebuttal.

Sometimes a speaker is building a story towards a climax. And with your interruption, he is unable to tell a story the way he wanted to. This can leave him feeling disappointed that what he spent hours rehearsing fail to come to fruition.

And you never know.

Maybe if you had allowed him to finish, you would not have made a comment that made you look stupid.

5) Practice

Becoming a good listener can take time. You need time and practice to hone your listening skills.

So don’t put the burden of instant success on your shoulders. That’s just brewing stress and anxiety.

Practice listening with the people around you.

  • Close friends
  • Family members
  • Colleagues
  • etc

Other than these sources, try listening when watching TV or when listening to the radio.

Listening is one of the most underrated soft skills.

For example, in many critical negotiations, it is seldom about how well you articulate. But more about how well you are listening to what the other party is ACTUALLY saying.

This is such a essential and yet ignored skill, that you might be able to get a competitive edge over a lot of people when you learn how to harness it.

So do make mastering it a goal in both life and career.

4 Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is essentially the practice of focusing on your immediate surroundings.

It is associated with things like meditation, yoga, controlled breathing, etc.

When you practice mindfulness, you clear your mind and focus only on what is around you.

There are actually a lot of benefits associated with mindfulness.

In this article, you are going to be introduced to just 4 of the many benefits associated with mindfulness.

1) An improved ability to focus

One of the main benefits of mindfulness is how it teaches you to focus on what is in front of you.

A lot of people struggle with focusing on the task at hand, their minds wander.

This is understandable; after all, people in modern society tend to be overloaded with worries and things that they need to do.

However, being unable to focus can lead to problems in both your work and home life.

Mindfulness trains people to focus their minds on things like their surroundings, their own body, etc.

2) Greater control over their emotions

A major component of mindfulness is learning how to channel your emotions and feelings. Many people suffer from an inability to control their emotions.

They become frazzled easily and make bad decisions.

I am sure that if you think about your own family, you can probably identify several people who suffer from an inability to control their emotions.

Mindfulness requires people to channel their emotions.

Because of this, during highly stressful or otherwise emotional times, mindful people are able to take a few minutes, calm themselves down, and think rationally.

3) Reduced stress levels

One of the most useful benefits of practicing mindfulness is how it can alleviate stress.

Everyone has to deal with some level of stress, but for many, stress can be crippling.

Practicing mindfulness can’t make the source of your stress go away, but it can help you cope with it more effectively than other stress relief strategies.

You clear your mind and focus on things that don’t cause stress.

Since your mind isn’t clouded by stress, it gives you time to think about solutions to whatever it is that is causing the stress in the first place.

4) Better memory

Practicing mindfulness is able to improve your memory for two reasons. Firstly, stress (which mindfulness alleviates) can make your memory worse.

So, by getting rid of stress, mindfulness enables you to be able to focus and remember things better.

Secondly, mindfulness is like a workout for your brain. Your brain is like a muscle, by working out your brain, it gets stronger.

How to Make Time for Mindfulness

Mindfulness can help many different aspects of your life, and if you understand the benefits, it’s time to start thinking about how to fit it into your busy routine.

At first, you may feel like you’re already too busy and you can’t possibly find time to start doing something new.

However, finding time to be more mindful doesn’t have to be difficult, and here are some of the easiest ways you can incorporate it into your day.

1) Spend less time online

Think about the time that you spend online – like most of us it’s probably a fair bit of your day.

When you’re in bed at night, are you on your phone or playing a game?

When you finish work, are you watching movies or checking Facebook for the latest updates?

Before you log on, force yourself to take just 5-10 minutes to spend time being mindful.

This could be writing down some thoughts from the day, sitting down to meditate or practising a couple of new yoga moves.

2) Be mindful while you commute

If you commute to work every day, this is a great opportunity to spend your time doing something useful.

Many commuters spend around an hour or more per day travelling, whether it’s on the train, bus or in your car.

During this time, you can allow yourself at least a few minutes to practise mindfulness.

Think about how you feel in the moment, the people around you and what you think and feel about different things.

3) Wake up 5 minutes earlier

If you want to make sure you get something done, the best time to do it is in the morning.

Rather than setting your alarm for 7am, wake up at 6:55am and spend the first five minutes of your day meditating or being mindful.

Not only will this get your day off to a great start, but you’ll feel positive about the fact you’ve managed to do something worthwhile even before you’ve had breakfast!

4) Establish a routine

Rather than trying to find a new place and a new way to be mindful every day, keep the same routine.

If you decide to practise mindfulness when at the gym, try to do this on a regular basis.

If you want to wake up earlier to do it, establish a new earlier morning routine in order to accommodate this.

Can Mindfulness Help Anxiety and Depression?

If you’ve been hearing lots of people talking about being mindful or encouraging you to be mindful of certain things, you might start to wonder what this concept actually is.

Unfortunately, not many people take the time to discover more about mindfulness and how it can help them to become healthier and happier people.

By concentrating on this, you can improve many aspects of your life, including your home life, relationships and health and fitness.

What is mindfulness?

When you become more aware of your body, your surroundings and your emotions, this is known as becoming more mindful.

Rather than just rushing through everything and not paying attention to what your body and mind are telling you, it’s the idea that you should stop and take the time to feel and understand more of the things you’re experiencing.

What can you do to become more mindful?

When you smell a new scent, think about whether you like it or not.

If you like it, think about why you like it. Does it make you feel happy?

Does it remind you of something in particular?

Maybe you associate the scent with something and it brings back some happy memories.

Perhaps it brings back some bad memories, but being mindful isn’t always about feeling good things – it’s about understanding what you’re feeling.

In order to become more mindful, think about your different senses and how you can pay more attention to the things you feel.

If you become upset, think about what made you upset and what you could do to avoid it in the future.

If a certain sound makes you feel a certain way, you can use this to either encourage the sound and hear more of it, or try to avoid it so that it doesn’t make you feel negative emotions.

What can improve if you include mindfulness in your daily routine?

Not only will you start to become more attentive and notice more things in your life, but you’ll be able to understand yourself better as a person.

Understanding oneself is very important in order to live a happy and healthy life.

If you listen to your body when it tells you it’s too tired to work out, you won’t rush the risk of injuries. If you push your body when you know it can take more, you’ll see the benefits and rewards.

Being mindful can also help your mental health, since you will become aware of what makes you feel good and bad and the reasons why.

Can Mindfulness Help Anxiety and Depression?

Around 1 in 10 people globally suffer or have suffered from anxiety at some point in their lives, while more than 300 million people around the world have had experiences with depression.

While there are various exercises and practices that you can attempt in order to try and decrease the effects of anxiety and depression, there is unfortunately no definite cure.

One of the ways you can help yourself to relax and potentially help yourself to overcome some of the anxiety and depression you may be feeling is to practise mindfulness.

This is the practice of becoming more aware, not only of yourself and your own body, but also of your surroundings and the environment and world around you.

How can you practise mindfulness?

Beginning to practise mindfulness can seem like a massive task at first, but once you get used to it and give it a go, you’ll see that it doesn’t have to be difficult and can be quite easily incorporated into your daily routine.

One way of practising mindfulness is to spend just 5-10 minutes after waking up to think about how you feel, what you plan to do with the day and what type of energy you are going to try and cultivate throughout the day.

Does it actually work?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for anxiety and depression, so it’s impossible to say whether mindfulness will work for everybody.

However, there have been many positive outcomes regarding studies and experiments which have been done concerning mindfulness and its related activities, such as meditation.

The main reason why mindfulness can help with depression and anxiety is simply due to the fact that the practice helps your mind and body to relax.

This results in taking away some of the stresses and worries that you feel as a result of your anxiety and depression.

It’s important to note that practising mindfulness will most likely take away some of the symptoms and effects of depression and anxiety, rather than completely cure you.

For example, if you struggle to sleep at night because you worry a lot about various things throughout the evening, meditating and practising mindfulness could mean that you relax more at night and therefore fall asleep more easily.

The only way to really find out whether mindfulness can help you is to try it out for yourself.

Make sure that you feel ready to try it and have an open mind in order to get maximum benefits.

3 Types of Exercise That Are Good for Your Mind as Well as Your Body

When we work out, the main focus is usually on our physical body.

While we might exercise to feel better or help ourselves to feel more tired or more positive about body image, we’re usually bothered about how much we’re toning up, how much muscle we’re building or how much weight we’re losing in a given time period.

You can ask most people about their goals from spending time in the gym, and they’ll normally give you physical goals that they are working towards, such as weighing a certain amount or looking a certain way.

However, there are some types of exercise which can be beneficial to your mind as well as your body – here are some examples of the workouts you can do to benefit yourself all-round.

1) Yoga

This is probably one of the most common types of exercise when it comes to ways to improve your body and your mind.

Yoga is great at helping you to feel more confident about yourself while also helping you to become more flexible and healthier in the long run.

If you’ve never tried Yoga, don’t be put off by the idea that you have to be ultra-flexible to join any of the classes or have a go yourself.

There are many Yoga classes for all different ages, bodies and abilities. If you feel nervous about joining a class with other people, you can always find videos online and have a go yourself at home while nobody is watching!

2) Meditation

You might not think of meditation as a form of exercise, but there are many different ways that you can meditate.

Although you might not be getting your heart rate up while sitting there meditating, you’re doing favors for both your heart and your brain.

Meditation has been known to relax people enough to drastically decrease the risk of a heart attack, as well as reducing blood pressure.

3) Tai Chi

Tai Chi might not look like the most difficult of workouts to pull off, but you could be surprised at just how difficult it is.

Just because something is slow doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy, and just because you’re moving quick doesn’t mean you’re performing at your best.

Tai Chi is a series of slow movements that will help you to focus better, improve your concentration and also tone your body and improve flexibility.