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This is going to be my first of many articles regarding how sport can help you with depression. I’ve just started up a new charity purely to encourage people to get involved in sport to help them to recover from depression.
I wanted to share my personal experience of how sport helped me through a very difficult time in my life.
2012 was not a good year for me. I was diagnosed with severe depression and often found it difficult to get out of bed. On the advice of my doctor I joined my local tennis club, the gym and started weightlifting.
I started off participating in sport & exercise sessions just a couple of times a week but the effect just a few hours a week had on my mental health was huge. I gave myself a few targets so I had something to take my mind off the depression, one of which was to get better at tennis (a sport I really don’t have a natural affinity for) and to lose a little bit of weight.
After a month I was starting to win the odd set of tennis and I’d lost a good bit of weight. This gave me a huge surge of positive feelings. Slowly I was becoming more focused and my mind was concentrating on other things apart from being totally exhausted from the depression.
After every session I felt I’d achieved something. Although I was tired, sometimes exhausted, the feeling of coming home after doing something positive with my time was absolutely incredible. I started to put more focus on sport & bought a few dumbbells so if I was feeling particularly low and couldn’t leave the house I could still get a workout in.
Even on my lowest days I’d persuade myself to do something active such as a brisk walk, a short session with weights or a few sets of sit ups or press ups. Every time I’d feel better afterwards. An addition to the benefits on my mental health, regular work outs left me feeling fitter and more focused culminating in eventually quitting smoking and cutting down drinking. Self medication is common amongst those who suffer with depression, and I’m living proof that sports can be a great substitute for smoking and drinking. These are never long term fixes and usually result in you feeling even worse the following day, sport and exercise will help you to take your mind off your depression without causing any long term damage to your body, in fact it will improve your health!
Exercise increases the levels of endorphins, serotonin, and other chemical messengers in your brain and generally put you in a better mood. It also increases blood flow to the brain and causes our muscles to relax making it easier to get to sleep and giving you a better quality of sleep, which in turn reduces depression. Additionally, getting a fitter body can boost self-confidence and make you feel better about yourself enhancing your mood. It is a medical fact that sport and fitness can help to reduce the odds of suffering from depression by 25-50% and additionally that sport & fitness will reduce the effect of depression and enrich the lives of those who suffer with it.
Therefore, if you’re suffering try a sport or join a club, however daunting it may be. If that’s not your thing go for a brisk walk, a short run, buy some weights or do some press ups. Any sort of sport can hugely help your overall mental health. Keep it up and you’ll find your depression slowly improving until hopefully it no longer affects your life or disappears altogether!
I hope this article has been of use to you, please contact me if you’re suffering and you’d like advice on how sport & exercise can help you recover from depression at: firstname.lastname@example.org