Woman using physical exercise to treat depression

Creating a More Physical Lifestyle and Altering Your Attitude

In addition to doing wonders for your brain and body, physical movement can be a game-changer when it comes to your overall attitude. Exercise is the perfect tool for reprogramming a depressed prefrontal cortex. It can reprogram how you think and cope too. 

Here’s what else regular movement is going to do for you:

Increase your confidence. There’s a confidence that comes from having a body that is fit and healthy, and there is also confidence that comes from doing something every day that you know is good for you. Either way, regular physical movement empowers you to feel better about yourself.

Boost your creativity. Research conducted at Stanford University showed that something as simple as casual walking improves creativity by boosting convergent thinking (solving a problem) as well as divergent thinking (coming up with original ideas). [1]

Help you cope. We’ve already talked about the fact that the endorphins released while exercising serve as your body’s natural painkillers while helping to reduce anxiety and stress. That makes exercise the perfect go-to activity when you’re looking for a healthy coping strategy. Unhealthy coping techniques (such as misusing alcohol, overeating, and excessive TV viewing) may provide a temporary release or escape, but they are expedient at best and cause more harm than good in the end. Physical movement, however, is a coping strategy that not only provides relief at the moment, but it also offers innumerable lasting benefits for a healthy brain and body.

Increasing your activity level for one day is a great start, but the most powerful benefits will come from consistency. Once you get moving, how do you keep moving, day after day, week after week? 

Here are five ways to reap the long-term benefits of a more active lifestyle:

  1. Keep a journal. Write down what your thoughts and feelings were like before, during, and after exercising. Write about any improvements you feel in your body, attitude, or emotions. 
  2. Be consistent. Especially as you get started, remember that consistency is more important than intensity. As you gain strength in your body and mind, you may naturally want to increase the intensity of your workouts. In the beginning, however, make consistency your number one goal, and the rest will follow.
  3. Ban all-or-nothing thoughts. Consistency and commitment are indeed essential for an effective activity regimen, but don’t be hard on yourself if you slack off a bit. Perfectionism is the enemy of progress.
  4. Enlist the help of fitness apps. Downloading a fitness app on your phone or purchasing an activity tracker isn’t necessary (so don’t put off your fitness goals until you have one) but can be motivating for some people. If counting steps or reaching activity goals by using an app or tracker feels rewarding, do it!
  5. Create a favorite workout playlist. Music and movement are a powerful combination. Creating a playlist of lively tunes that make you want to move is always a great idea.  

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

[1] Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz, “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 40, no. 4 (July 2014): 1142–52, http://psycnet.apa.org/record /2014-14435-001.