Although exercise is said to be very effective in alleviating depressive emotions, this can be futile without the motivation and willpower to initiate it.
A depressed person may indulge in emotional binge eating for the endorphin rise that helps them get through the day.
This makes for an unhealthy lifestyle and explains why depressive emotions are not just an emotional challenge but a physical one too.
Why is it hard to stay healthy when you are depressed?
1. Low dopamine
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps you feel excited and happy. Low levels can cause feelings of extreme fatigue, lethargy and a lack of enthusiasm. It is as if your whole body’s mechanism works against you getting up and moving.
2. Difficulty in starting a new routine
Starting a new routine can feel almost impossible and challenging when you’re feeling down and depressed. Smaller tasks like waking up from the bed and taking a walk outside are already challenging enough.
Starting and keeping up with a new health plan can likewise pose a great difficulty.
3. Lack of social support
Self-isolation is common in depressed individuals as they do not want their loved ones to see them at their lowest point.
Even if you do reach out, it will only benefit if you receive the right kind of social support to uplift you.
Without positive energy and support from others, this can cause you to relapse and lose motivation to get better.
4. Negative self-talk
A depressed individual may sometimes hear a lot of negative internal dialogues that lead to negative self-criticism.
A vicious cycle may occur in which the negative self-talk persuades you not to be healthy or that you do not deserve to be healthy, causing you to feel more depressed.
In turn, these depressive emotions exacerbate the negative self-talk and the cycle continues.
How to stay healthy despite having depression
The good news is motivation is a mental muscle that gets stronger the more you use it. There are effective ways to train your motivation to get stronger in keeping yourself healthy.
This works pretty similar to negative emotions, the more you indulge in them, the stronger they become.
If you find it hard to escape this cycle, know that you have the ability to strengthen your mind and to head in the opposite direction of strengthening your positive emotions.
1. Love yourself
You may feel that self-love is narcissistic and too self-indulgent while others argue that you can only love others if you love yourself.
The latter aphorism does prove to be valid as self-compassion is vital when attempting to overcome depressive emotions and move towards being healthy
In order for you to be happy, self- love and acceptance is vital for inner contentment and well-being. So, eat, pray, love and the exercise will follow suit
2. Practise positive self-talk
It is important to resist ‘punishing yourself’ through self-criticism and negative self-talk when you do not reach the health goals you wish to achieve
A lot of times your greatest enemy is yourself. These unspoken thoughts in your mind can be very hard and unforgiving towards yourself which can be unhealthy mentally and emotionally
It is important to practice positive self-talk such as, “ I did well today, I was able to walk for 15 minutes which is a step up from how I was yesterday”
3. Start small
Instead of focusing on starting a whole new routine, it is sufficient to begin with small achievements such as even getting out of bed and taking a five minute walk.
It is important to acknowledge these achievements regardless of how minute they may appear to be.
As hard as it may be to drag yourself out of bed, it will definitely be worth it to kickstart your mood. You will definitely feel better as you push yourself a bit.
4. Listen to your body
As humans are creatures of habit, we will most likely keep doing things that help us get into the habit of feeling good.
After attempting to drag yourself out of bed and walk for five minutes, pay attention to how your body feels and the emotions you experience.
5. If you overindulge, forgive yourself and move along
Small and effective attempts to keep healthy usually involve short-term realistic goals. It helps to bear in mind that progress does not equate perfection.
If you miss a day of exercise or overindulge in some chocolate, it does not mean that you have failed in your whole endeavour to be healthy. Forgive yourself and get back on your health journey again.
6. Seek help
If all of these do not help and you are still feeling down in the dumps, seek help, get support from loved ones or pursue professional help.
It does not make you any less of a person to seek help, after all we all need some motivation and a little ‘pick me up’ every now and then.
Take control of your depressed emotions before they take control of you. Every great journey begins with the first step.
Prepare yourself for the first step through the journey of self-compassion and overcoming negative emotions in order to move towards becoming a healthier you, physically, emotionally and mentally.
The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.