The worst thing about depression is the terrible feeling of having no energy to move, change, or ever escape from the prison.
You feel the energy has been drained out of your body. When you think about doing something, even the thought can be overwhelming. You curl up into the fetal position and try to push the idea out of your mind. There are a few things that you can drag yourself to do, such as going to the refrigerator to find food, going to the bathroom, or climbing back into bed. You remember vaguely what pleasure felt like, but it doesn’t happen any more. You are screaming to escape, but your body refuses to co-operate.
You feel you have no ability to start the engine.
The whole motivational system has shut down. And the longer you wait to start the engine, the more rusty the engine seems to feel.
Chemical Imbalance? Definitely, but…
When depressed, there is plenty of evidence of your brain chemistry is messed up. However, trying to juggle these bits of brain chemistry with medication works for some, but it seems to be of little use for many others.
How can you start the engine without waiting for the right medicine?
We get a hint of an answer by looking back to the so-called “good old days” when there were no anti-depressants around. There were certainly less people being diagnosed with Major Depression compared to today, but it is difficult to get good comparable data from those early days.
However, there is plenty evidence that many of those earlier patients spontaneously recovering from depression without the aid of medication. Some would relapse again, but many seemed to have a complete recovery.
So it looks if their brain machinery was intact all the time. Some unknown factor seems to have accidentally got them functioning again. Nobody seemed to know what was that elusive factor.
Today, we have at least one answer: MOVEMENT
Movement is one of the best ways of restarting your brain chemistry.
More and more research is showing that the very simplest of exercises can produce massive physiological changes in the chemicals involved in anxiety and depression. For instance, simply practicing standing up straight when facing a stressful situation will change a person’s brain chemistry, with people reporting feeling much more confident.
Also, most people report feeling much more optimistic after a strenuous workout at the gym.
It’s looks as if consistently moving towards goals can get the engine running again.
However, the thought of exercise when you are depressed is the farthest thing from your mind.
You can’t even run to the bathroom!
However, no matter what other strategies you may be using, such as medications or therapy, don’t just wait for the energy to suddenly appear. Start moving.
Even moving towards the most trivial of goals can begin to alter the brain chemistry. And these small chemical changes will be eventually begin to feel pleasurable.
- Start moving, but start moving without getting out of bed!
- You need to start very easily, doing the simplest of behaviors while still lying in bed.
- First, getting out of that curled-up fetal position which is seen in all animals when they are depressed.
- It’s amazing how much that position tells your brain that everything is hopeless, so simply hide from the world.
- Arch your back, trying to do the opposite to what you do in the fetal position.
- Stretch your body in as many directions as possible, push your toes away from you, and stretch your hands over your head, making your body a long and as straight as possible.
- At other times, stretch other parts of our body: move your neck from side to side, arch your body backwards, twist your body into as many different positions as you can.
- In general, move your body around in bed, spending as little time as possible in that fetal position.
In other words, you can start completing lots of little tasks without even getting out of bed. You will be amazed how much your physiology begins to function once you give it a chance. Keep doing it each day.
- When you do get out of bed, don’t slump.
- Try to walk tall, with your shoulders back and head high. It will feel very artificial, but keep doing it.
- Just standing and walking with head up and shoulders back will have a big effect on those neurotransmitters. You release a little bit of dopamine, the happy drug, every time you move and act in a non-depressed way.
- That drug helps strengthen the new behavior, making it into a new habit.
- Just get used to doing something small, where you can say “at least I can do that!”
- Thinking and Doing. A lot of my depressed patients have also found this exercise to be useful.
- Try to speed up the time between when you think of doing something , and actually doing it.
- This is very important in terms of getting the dopamine to do its job at the right time.
- If you delay too long between thinking and doing, you are simply practicing being a procrastinator.
- You are thinking of getting a glass of water? Get out of bed and move as soon as possible. Don’t delay.
- Try to get thoughts and actions as close together as possible.
The more often that you practice Thinking and Doing during each day, the more you will feel liberated from the depression. I encourage people to look for at least 10 easy situations a day where they deliberately follow this procedure.
- Don’t try too hard!
- The worst thing you need at this point is failure.
- Trying too much too soon can exhaust you.
- You don’t have much energy at this point, so be patient and take your time with these suggestions.
Without movement, your physiology cannot possibly function normally.
Look at these suggestions as the first step in getting you moving again. There are many other things that you eventually need to do, in terms of improving you social network, having others encourage you to get out of bed and do things, trying cognitive therapy for depression, and using medications if you found them helpful.
But in order to make use of these other aids, you need to start moving.