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OF mental health care and mentally ill

Research on exercise and depression

Exercise, relaxation and depression

These have been mentioned before in the section on Stress. They are very important factors in the somatic management of depression. Please do not forget to do these regularly. I often try to encourage people a little bit by giving them a calendar for the next month with squares for each day in which they can stick various coloured stickers or dots. Each week they will need (say): 4–5 red dots, each indicating a 30–45-minute aerobic exercise session; 8–9 green dots, each indicating a twenty-minute relaxation session; a couple of blue dots, each indicating a “leisure or pleasure” session; and a daily brown dot showing they have completed their daily, self-appointed task list of 3–4 “must do” items. This calendar can be kept on the fridge with a couple of fridge magnets, so that everyone can see how well they are doing in tackling their depression. This is an excellent way of forming a new somatic habit. An increased healthy use of the body, breathing exercises, and, most importantly, increased somatic awareness, will all become very important factors on the way back to emotional and physical health. Find the forms of exercise that suit you best and you enjoy the most: walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, running, hillclimbing, aerobics, or whatever. Then start to do these more. Force yourself to do these regularly, even if you don’t feel like it on any particular day. You willstart to feel better when you develop and implement this sort of pattern. As we continue to do these things more frequently and regularly, we start to become more aware of our bodies; and this leads us to become a bit more alive and a bit more vital. This is just the start of the process back towards a healthy, vibrant life, and an undepressed state that goes with this. It is a simple, but not an easy, road. It demands patience, persistence, and determination. And there are also considerable benefits as we start to feel more and more aware and alive and less depressed. It is also extremely effective. The “down” side is that we have to change some of our ingrained habits: we have to force ourselves to do a little bit more each day—even though we may not feel like it; we may have to change our diet a bit, drink less, eat more healthily, and relax more.

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