Last Updated on December 13, 2016 by Michael Brockbank
Holiday depression is something that plagues a lot of people. However, it’s not as prevalent as many may believe. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that depression is higher during the spring and fall months. Regardless, being depressed during the holidays is quite common among many. I, myself, am having a hard time this year because of my separation from my family. However, regular exercise may be the key to setting your mind right.
How Exercise Helps Holiday Depression
The holidays can be exceptionally stressful, especially on parents. There’s nothing worse than getting into a throw-down with another parent over a popular toy while Christmas shopping at the last minute. Luckily, there are ways to stave off depression and anxiety during this time of year.
All it takes is a few moments of your day.
Releasing Endorphins to Get Through the Holidays
When you exercise, your body releases a chemical called, “endorphin.” This comes from the pituitary gland in the brain and is used to reduce the sensation of pain and enhance pleasure. When you hear the term, “Runners High,” the euphoric sensation after running a marathon, it’s because of these endorphins.
Endorphin is released during strenuous workouts or long periods of physical activity. It’s this component that can greatly impact how your holiday unfolds. It’s also why a lot of therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists will prescribe exercise routines to deal with depression and anxiety.
In reality, it’s a far cheaper way to achieve a similar effect to morphine. I’m not saying that a brisk walk around the neighborhood will cure your depression. But how often have you felt better emotionally after doing something similar?
I can say with certainty that long walks have helped me in many ways over the past few weeks. The longer the walk, the better I feel.
Increasing Oxygen and Blood-Flow to the Brain
The more blood and oxygen you get to your brain, the more focused you become. In fact, there have been many studies linking exercise to increasing brain-processing power. If you want to improve your power of thinking, one of the easiest ways is through regular exercise.
Being able to remain clear-minded isn’t the only reason you should exercise to help with holiday depression. It can also influence your emotional states. That’s because emotions are managed through the brain, and its overall health will impact your mental status.
While a proper diet can also influence your brain’s ability to reason, think and adapt, exercise is vital if you want to improve your overall way of thinking. Like the saying goes, “Healthy body, healthy mind.” That’s because the two are linked.
Working Out the Problems
A lot of people will work out to give them a reprieve from the stress of daily living. It can also give you a chance to logically analyze your particular situation and come up with better solutions. Part of this is thanks to the effect exercise has on the brain, whether it’s endorphins or increased oxygen.
In a way, many individuals will use exercise as a form of meditation to help with holiday depression. Instead of clearing your mind through relaxation, you’re clearing your mind through physical activity. Either of these methods can be very helpful when dealing with stress and anxiety.
I find it to be very relaxing to meditate after an intensive workout. The mind becomes sharper and I find myself in a far better mood than if I just wake up and go to work.
Best Exercises to Help Yourself Feel Happy through the Holidays
Exercise can come in virtually any form. In reality, anything that can elevate the heart in a natural way is going to be beneficial when it comes to releasing endorphin. Here are few that can get the pulse rate up.
Walking, Jogging or Running
Getting your legs moving can easily elevate the heart rate. In fact, you can increase your pulse simply by getting up and checking your outside mail box. However, it’s the sustain activity that you want to focus on. You want to keep the heart rate elevated for a prolonged period of time. For instance, you’re more likely to release endorphins walking three miles as opposed to half a mile.
Playing the Xbox Kinect
I am a strong proponent of fitness gaming. I burn more calories playing the Kinect than many people do through aerobic exercise. That’s because I go all out when playing tennis. The fact is you can get a great deal of exercise playing games as long as you can keep the body moving throughout the entire process. Don’t just stand there and move your arms. Get active and use exaggerated movements.
Swimming is one of the most effective workouts you can possibly do. It activates more muscle groups simultaneously, is considered zero-impact and can burn more fats than most other exercises. I know it may be difficult to go for a swim to cure holiday depression depending on where you live, but it might be worth spending 20 to 30 minutes in a pool if you have access to one.
Remember, it’s all about getting the heart rate elevated if you want the body to produce endorphins. Dancing around is an excellent way to get exercise throughout your day. In essence, this is what I do when I am playing the Xbox. However, you can do this just by getting jiggy in your living room with a nice, fast-paced playlist. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know any special dance moves. You’re not competing on “Dancing with the Stars.” Move your body.
If you live in an area where there is a lot of snow, grab your shovel and start treating your stress and anxiety. Don’t think of shoveling snow as a chore. Instead, view it as a way to help improve the power of your mind. The more snow you shovel, the better you may feel. And, you might earn a few bucks from your neighbors in the process.
I’ve covered the benefits of cleaning house in the past from a fitness viewpoint. If you can commit to a rigorous workout while cleaning, you can benefit from both the exercise and a spotless house. As long as you can work yourself into a decent sweat, it may help your holiday depression.
Exercise is More than Merely Keeping Trim
Too many people put emphasis on the physical aspect of exercise. While it’s true that it can help you slim down, there is more going on within. From controlling emotions to making better choices during your job, exercise is key to success in many ways.
While working out can help you focus on a specific bespoke piece of clothing, don’t discredit what it can do for your mental focus. Health and fitness are more than just aspects to helping you fit into last year’s clothing. It’s a way to reclaim a happier lifestyle and treat holiday depression.