Depression affects millions of people around the world. And while many will rely on prescription medication to ease their symptoms, there’s a simple and easy way to boost your mood in 60 minutes or less – exercise.
While exercise isn’t a “cure-all” for depression, it can help people with mild cases better manage their condition.
What is Depression?
Everyone feels sad or moody from time to time, but when these feelings become very intense and last for a long period of time (think several weeks or years), we define this condition as depression.
Many people feel depressed for seemingly no reason at all. This condition is more than just feeling low – it’s a very serious one that can have a tremendous impact on your mental and physical health.
Experts say that one in eight men and one in five women will suffer from depression at some point during their lifetime.
Unfortunately, we do not know the exact cause of depression, but we do know that there are a number of factors that could contribute to its development. Typically, this condition is not the result of a single event, but a combination of personal factors, long-term issues and recent events.
How Exercise Can Boost Your Mood
When the symptoms of depression are mild or moderate, exercise can serve as a helpful treatment aid. Studies have shown that staying active can be just as effective at treating depression as antidepressants and psychological therapy.
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals. These chemicals reduce your perception of pain and also create a positive feeling in the body. That’s why you’ll hear a lot of runners say they feel euphoric after a good run, which is often referred to as a “runner’s high.”
Staying active can also:
- Improve your energy level
- Help you sleep better
- Distract you from your everyday worries
- Eliminate negative thoughts
And if you exercise with a group, you’ll feel less isolated and alone.
How to Get Started
The mental health benefits of exercise will largely depend on how long and how often you engage in physical activity. When you look at studies that support the idea of exercise as a depression treatment, you’ll find most used aerobic exercise during their research. And most of the time, participants exercise for 30 minutes or more, three days a week and for a minimum of eight weeks.
The trouble is that people who are depressed have a difficult time finding motivation to start an exercise routine. If you find yourself in this boat, use these tips to help you start an exercise plan that will help ease your depression symptoms:
- Keep it simple, and start slowly. There’s no need to create a complicated workout routine. Start out by taking a walk each day – even if it’s just for five or ten minutes – or invest in a good rowing machine for cardio workouts. Gradual changes over time will eventually snowball into dramatic life transformations.
- Find something you love. Don’t force yourself to run if you hate it. Find something you enjoy doing. If you look forward to the activity, you’ll find it easier to stick to your routine.
- Create a plan. While it doesn’t have to be complicated, it’s still important to create a workout plan for yourself. Knowing what you’re going to do each day will eliminate excuses and make it easier to stick to your routine.
- Get friends involved. Working out with other people can help you stay on track and motivated. It will also give you a chance to socialize and boost your confidence.
While exercise may not be an advisable treatment for serious cases, it has been shown to be effective for mild to moderate depression. So get out there and get moving to boost your mood and lift your spirit.
Neuro Linguistic Programming, or NLP, is the latest buzzword in the psychology world. But what exactly is NLP? And how can it help you shift your mindset to boost your motivation, make life changes, or even lose weight with ease?
What is Neuro Linguistic Programming?
NLP is considered an alternative type of psychology. The idea behind this modality is that your thoughts and mind shape your reality and your behavior. Your beliefs, values and attitudes play an integral role in the way you perceive the world around you.
What NLP does is change your values and beliefs, so you can make long-lasting changes to your life.
The central focus of NLP is modeling. Modeling is how we learn; it’s a part of our nature. When you were a child, you modeled your parents by imitating what they did and said. Using this same approach, you can model how someone does and says something as an adult, so that you can achieve the same results they did.
So if you want to be like the CEO of your company, pay attention to his or her behavior and words. Dig into the past to find out what he or she did to get to the top.
NLP was first developed as a therapeutic technique in the 1960s by modeling some of the best therapists of the time. The goal was to uncover how these therapists were able to create change in people. Researchers looked at what these therapists said and how their words affected their clients.
Up until this point, psychologists only studied disease. They understood how things could go wrong, but they do not understand how people excel in life.
Using this foundation, researchers created a simple model of how the human mind works. This model was then used to create a set of techniques designed to help a person change their mindset, behaviors and beliefs.
How NLP Can Help
Every human being on this planet has experienced doubt, challenges and trauma at some point in time. And these emotions are an indication that you have unresolved issues from your past. Your mind attempts to relive this problem, or problems, until you’ve found a solution. Only when you’ve dealt with and resolved these issues can you finally get what you want.
It’s not uncommon for people to have the following limiting beliefs:
- I don’t deserve the things I want in life.
- I’m unlucky.
- I’ll never have enough money to do the things I want.
- I don’t have time.
- I’ll never be able to lose weight.
Neuro linguistic programming can be used for more than just weight loss. It can be used to help you:
- Improve your confidence, so you can go after that promotion or new job.
- Change your perspective on life, so you can avoid negative thoughts and limiting beliefs.
- Boost your motivation, so you set and achieve your goals.
NLP has long been used as a self-help tool, and has helped many people achieve their life goals. While it doesn’t work 100% of the time (no therapy does), those who are motivated and committed see the best results.
Every person has their own beliefs about themselves, these beliefs are often disguised as facts or statements – even though they’re just opinions. How do we form these beliefs? Life experiences, and the outcomes of these experiences. If your experiences are mostly negative, you will likely have a negative opinion about yourself as well.
So, what causes low self-esteem? And how can you change your opinion about yourself?
Causes of Low Self-esteem
Most of the life experiences that help form our beliefs about ourselves occur early in life. The things that you heard, saw, and experienced as a child both in your home and in school have influenced your view of yourself. For some people, these experiences were mostly negative. Negative experiences that can lead to low self-esteem include:
- Failure to meet your peers’ standards (a.k.a. bullied) in school.
- Abuse, punishment or neglect by loved ones.
- Failure to meet your parents’ standards.
- Lack of warmth, praise, interest and affection from parents or loved ones.
- Being on the receiving end of another person’s stress.
- Always being the odd one out, whether you were at school or home.
While most people form negative beliefs about themselves early in life, it’s also possible to lower your opinion of yourself later in life. Maybe you were a part of an abusive relationship, were subjected to bullying in the workplace, or endured a series of traumatic events, so you shy away from meaningful relationships. Maybe you try hard to emulate your favorite celebrity because you’re unhappy with your own appearance, so you do everything in your power to look like them – laser hair removal, hair extensions, and wardrobe changes.
There are lots of factors that come into play in the development of low self-esteem.
How Low Self-esteem Develops
If you have low self-esteem as an adult, you may notice that you criticize yourself in the same tone that you were criticized in as a child, or you may make comparisons to other people in the same way that your family, friends or loved ones did. The experiences that you had as a child create a foundation that you base your conclusions about yourself on. These conclusions are known as “The Bottom Line,” and it’s considered the negative view of oneself – the heart of low self-esteem.
The Bottom Line and Biased Thinking
The Bottom Line is usually formed during childhood, which means that it’s typically inaccurate and biased. Why? Because these beliefs were formed through a child’s perspective. At the time, these beliefs and emotions made perfect sense to you because you did not have any adult knowledge with which to help you understand what was truly going on.
The Bottom Line then progresses into your Rules for Living, which are the strategies you create to cope with life. And the strategies are all based on the assumption that The Bottom Line is true.
As you may have guessed, your Rules for Living provide you with a set of rules that you must obey in life in order to avoid disappointment and hurt. The only problem with this is that it also reinforces The Bottom Line.
While your Rules for Living may help protect you from low self-esteem for a short time, eventually, you will find yourself in a situation where the rules will either be broken or are threatened to be broken. When this happens, The Bottom Line rears its ugly head, triggering low self-esteem. This vicious cycle continues until the underlying problem is addressed.
Treating Low Self-Esteem
Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective way to overcome low self-esteem because it helps you break the cycle of negative thoughts. It focuses on your beliefs, thoughts and opinions, but it also provides you with a practical way to change your beliefs by changing your behavior.
Millions of people all over the world suffer with low self-esteem, but it is possible to overcome these negative internal beliefs to lead a happier, positive life that encourages you to go for and achieve your goals.
I hate people – a cringe-worthy phrase uttered by a lot of people these days. But shying away from social situations or avoiding other people doesn’t necessarily mean that you have social anxiety. It doesn’t mean that you’re shy either. Shyness and social anxiety are a little more complex.
What is Social Anxiety?
Simply put, social anxiety is the fear or apprehension most people feel at some point in social situations. Social anxiety may kick in if you think you might do something that will humiliate or embarrass you. Truthfully, this type of anxiety is normal to some degree, and there really is no cure for it.
However, when this anxiety becomes so severe that you are unable to interact with other people, then the issue needs to be addressed. People that have social anxiety typically assume that others will notice their awkwardness or their weaknesses, and that they’ll be rejected or criticized for not behaving in a “socially acceptable” way. In turn, this leads to loneliness and isolation.
In severe cases, social anxiety may be diagnosed as social phobia. Those with social phobia have a consistent fear of situations where they are exposed to the potential scrutiny of other people. The fear become so severe that the individual avoid social situations altogether.
It’s important to note that there really is no clear distinction between social anxiety and social phobia. With that said, studies suggest that up to 13% of the world’s population will, at some point, suffer from social anxiety that’s so severe, it could be classified as social phobia.
The Difference between Shyness and Social Anxiety
Okay, so if there’s a fine line between social anxiety and social phobia, is there also a fine line between shyness and social anxiety? Yes and no. About 80% of people say that they’ve experienced shyness either during adolescence or childhood. But it’s important to remember that shyness is very normal, and not the exception. As we grow up, this shyness generally fades away.
Shyness often feels like you’re shrieking back from a social situation, so many of the symptoms are very similar to social anxiety. Naturally, there are different degrees of shyness. Some people just have mild social awkwardness, while others withdraw completely.
What Causes Social Anxiety?
Shyness and social anxiety can be caused by a variety of different factors, including:
- Negative or traumatic experiences
- Your temperament or personality
- Your home environment
- The stress and demands of everyday life
Those who suffer with social anxiety often wind up going to a vicious cycle through which social situations provoke fear of doing something wrong, and you react to that anxiety by worrying about what others might notice.
Breaking the Cycle
The only true way to overcome social anxiety is to break this vicious cycle. There are four key methods used to break these cycles:
- Changing your behavior
- Changing your thought patterns
- Improving your confidence
- Reducing your self-consciousness
The combination of these four factors prevents you from being yourself in social situations. These are the things that need to change in order for you to overcome your social anxiety or shyness.
While there are several self-help methods out there to help you overcome shyness and social phobia or anxiety, a therapist may be your best option as he or she has the experience and knowledge to help guide you through this difficult process.
Mental health and hydration – two terms you don’t normally see in the same sentence. But when you consider that your brain is made up of 75% water, it’s easy to see the connection between the two.
If you’re not drinking enough water each day, you’re not only damaging your body, you’re putting your mental well-being at risk.
But how do you define mental health? And what impact does dehydration have on your emotional well-being?
What is Mental Health?
When you’re mentally healthy, you’re confident in yourself. You have an overall sense of well-being. You can tackle life’s difficulties. You appreciate life – and the people in it.
Poor mental health makes it difficult to have meaningful and positive relationships. And seemingly small challenges can make you feel like you’re climbing a mountain.
How Hydration Effects Your Mental Well-Being
If you have issues with stress and anxiety (who doesn’t?), dehydration can actually make you feel like you’re having an anxiety attack – even if you’re not.
Just take a look at some of the most common symptoms of mild dehydration:
- Dry mouth
While staying hydrated won’t make your anxiety disappear, it can help ease your symptoms – or in the very least, prevent them from getting out of control.
But stress and anxiety aren’t the only issues at play. Your brain’s physical health is at risk when you’re dehydrated.
Your Brain on Dehydration
You’ve been told that water is essential – more important than food. But why? Aside from our bodies being made up of about 60% water, we’re also unable to store water. Once we use it up, it’s gone for good.
If the body needs more water and you don’t supply it, it will take water from the cells in your body and your brain. And when this happens, your brain tissues actually shrink. This is why dehydration, even mild cases, can impact your mental health.
And here’s the thing: your body doesn’t start throwing out thirst signals until you’re already 2%-3% dehydrated. In other words, the damage has already been done.
Mild cases of dehydration can cause irritability and anxiety. Severe cases can cause hallucinations.
Most people don’t even realize that they’re dehydrated. But even with mild cases, cognitive function is impaired, and it becomes difficult to solve everyday problems.
So, if you’ve been walking around in a fog, it may just be that your body needs more water. Aim for at least 8 cups a day. You can further improve the absorption of the water by ensuring it is good quality by either drinking mineral water or making sure you drink filtered water.
Other Ways to Boost Your Mental Health
Staying hydrated is a great way to improve your mental health, but there are other things you can do boost your overall sense of well-being:
- Exercise regularly
- Get more sleep
- Relax and find ways to alleviate stress
- Eat a balanced diet
- Talk to others about your feelings
- Spend more quality time with friends and family
- Take up new hobbies and skills
Good mental health is crucial. Staying hydrated can help keep your mind at ease, and help you go through your day with improved mental clarity.