Rainy days bring out the blue in all of us. On some mornings, it can feel as though rolling out of bed takes more emotional energy than you have to spare – that leaving the house and engaging with other people requires far more from you than you can give. On these days, you might feel like curling up under a blanket and staying there until the blueness of the day passes you by. But I have a challenge for the you that prefers to sink under the covers on those days:
Go for a run.
It may seem a lofty goal on days when emotional and physical energy feels in short supply, but exercising might help cheer you up and – counterintuitively – give you back the energy you lack.
Stay with me on this!
Exercise boosts mood.
While few doctors prescribe exercise as a form of treatment for depression and anxiety, a number of studies have shown that engaging in regular exercise can be as effective a treatment as antidepressants for those with major depression. Moreover, findings published in Psychosomatic Medicine in 2007 further found that those patients who continued their exercise routines a year after the initial study had similarly high rates of remission when compared to the control group. Understated as it may be, exercise could be an invaluable tool for those struggling with depression.
Exercise Helps Manage Anxiety
Interestingly enough, habitual exercise may help those suffering from anxiety fend off panic attacks. According to Jasper Smits, PhD, Co-Director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the bodily effects of physical exertion align with those of panic attacks enough that becoming used to the former may limit the effect of the latter. As Smits comments in an article for the American Psychological Association: “Exercise in many ways is like exposure treatment […] People learn to associate the symptoms with safety instead of danger.”
Exercise Bolsters the Mind Against Stress
Exercise has a clear benefit for those suffering from stress or depression – and its effects may not be short-term. Some researchers believe that a routine pattern of exercise could help patients build a strong emotional foundation that allows them to cope better with future stressors. This conclusion stems from a study wherein submissive mice, which suffer social stress similarly to humans, were regularly subjected to bullying behaviors by more dominant mice. In one group, the bullied mice were left in spartan cages and given little opportunities for enrichment. In the other, bullied mice were given the chance to explore tubes and run on an exercise wheel. At the end of the study, the former group exhibited hiding and depressive behaviors, while the latter retained their vivacity and curiosity even after being bullied. For humans, these findings may indicate that regular exercise and stimulation can bolster the mind against future stress.
Blue days are unavoidable; however, a short run may help you break free of lethargy and find a bit of cheerfulness in an otherwise rainy day.