By Caroltoo Latest Reply 2012-04-11 22:42:11 -0500
Started 2012-04-09 15:47:11 -0500

Many of us feel depression because of our illness or other life events. One of the simplest management tools is exercise. It doesn't much matter what exercise, just do something to get the body moving. Here are some suggestions for moves to get us going. For full credits and references to studies, use the link to go back to the original article on Lifescript.

7 Moves to Lift Your Mood
By Nicole Dorsey, Special to Lifescript, Published April 09, 2012

Exercise physiologist Nicole Dorsey shares 7 moves to calm your mind and perk up your mood…

Depression is a serious condition requiring therapy, medication or both. But just moving your body – while not a cure – can make treatment more effective.

In fact, any kind of exercise has psychological and physical benefits that reduce anxiety and lift your spirits. Exercise enhances the action of endorphins, feel-good brain chemicals that circulate throughout the body.

Yoga and other forms of mind-body exercise, such as tai chi, are particularly good for improving mood. They raise levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a calming brain chemical that's lower in people with depression, according to a 2010 Boston University study. Higher amounts can mean brighter spirits.

Start improving your mood right away with the following moves.

Exercise Rx: Just Start Moving
You don’t have to jump into a challenging workout program to get depression relief.

Walking the dog, gardening or other activities you enjoy can all be a good start. Anything that gets you off the couch and moving can boost your mood.

The key is to exercise for at least 20-30 minutes daily. But you can do it in stages.

“Adding small amounts of physical activity throughout your day [is enough to] help relieve symptoms of depression.”

Exercise Rx: Twist Things Up
One of the most significant benefits of yoga is reduced stress and anger, Shaw says.

Start your program slowly with a simple Spinal Twist. This calming movement alleviates backaches and increases flexibility along the postural muscles of your back.

How to do it:
1. Lie on a mat or the floor.

2. Bring knees into chest.

3. Twist both legs slowly to the left.

4. Place right hand on right thigh and press down. For more of a challenge, straighten bottom (left) leg.

5. Keep both shoulders on the floor, and look toward your right hand.

6. Breathe deeply in this position for 1 minute, then switch sides.

Watch out: If you have back pain or a disk injury, this move might aggravate symptoms. To avoid further injury, keep both knees bent and don’t place any stress on the top leg.

Exercise Rx: Follow the Sun
Flowing from one yoga pose to another while breathing rhythmically slows the heart rate and strengthens your body while increasing endorphin production.

This move is based on the traditional Sun Salutation in Hatha Yoga. Shaw simplified it for beginners. Go back and forth in this Sunflower Flow for 3 minutes to warm up your body for the remaining exercises.

How to do it:
1. Stand with feet at least 4 inches wider than shoulder-distance apart.

2. Turn toes and knees slightly outward.

3. Reach both arms overhead until palms face each other. Inhale deeply.

4. Exhale slowly through the nose while bending knees and hips about 6 inches. Bring arms down until palms nearly touch in front of your belly.

5. Empty all air from your lungs, then inhale again as you stand and start over.

Exercise Rx: Invert Your Bad Mood
Yoga poses in which feet are lifted above the head, such as headstands and handstands, are called inversions. Besides improving blood circulation to the brain and strengthening core muscles, these moves can calm the mind.

The following inversion, in which you lie with your legs up a wall, is great for beginners or anyone who hasn’t exercised in a while, Shaw says.

How to do it:
1. Bring knees into chest.

2. Scoot to the wall so your butt is against it.

3. Straighten legs and lean them up the wall.

4. Place hands at your sides.

5. Close your eyes and hold this position for 3-8 minutes.

Watch out: If these movements feel uncomfortable, place a folded towel or blanket under your lower back.

Exercise Rx: Plow Ahead
If you’re up for a challenge, build on the last pose by going all the way upside-down. Plow pose can enhance concentration and increase body awareness. Do this for at least 5 minutes a day to restore energy and improve your mental focus.

How to do it:
1. Lie on your back with arms at your sides.

2. Lift legs overhead, using belly strength by contracting abdominal muscles. Bring straight legs toward your head, letting hips and low back rise from the floor, until toes touch (or approach) the floor behind your head. If you can’t touch toes to the floor, don’t force it; just bend knees around your ears.

3. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, lengthening your exhales, and keep your neck and head still. Support your mid-back with both hands, keeping weight on wrists and elbows. Hold this pose for 2-3 minutes.

4. If you can, lift legs vertically upright and move into a shoulder stand, with your weight on your upper arms and shoulders. For more support, do a shoulder stand against a wall.

Special considerations: If the plow pose feels uncomfortable, place a folded towel or blanket under your lower back. Avoid shoulder stands, headstands and other more advanced inversions if you’re pregnant, have neck pain, or high or low blood pressure.

Exercise Rx: Calm Down with Meditation
Meditation can help you sleep better and slow production of stress hormones.
The following meditation can be done any time you need a mental boost or a calming break.

How to do it:
1. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position on the floor and close your eyes.

2. Breathe through your nose, lengthening breaths until you can count to 4 or 6 on each inhale and exhale.

3. Visualize a calming object or peaceful, quiet place.

4. If distracting thoughts surface, acknowledge them and let them pass – just focus on your breathing.

5. Continue for 10-20 minutes. Set a clock-radio with soft music to notify you when your time is up.

Special considerations: If you have knee or hip pain, sit in a chair, not on the floor.

Exercise Rx: Accentuate the Positive
Once you can comfortably meditate for at least 10 minutes a day, add a mantra – that is, an affirmation or key phrase, or even a visual image, that has meaning for you.

This can help deepen your mind-body awareness and counteract negative thoughts or feelings of hopelessness that depression often brings. Pick a phrase that represents a feeling you want to reinforce, such as “I am strong.”

How to do it:
1. Sit in the cross-legged position described above. Choose the same place, about the same time each day, to build this healthy habit. Play music without lyrics, such as classical or new age, if that helps calm you.

2. Breathe slowly, and mentally repeat your chosen phrase, or focus on your visual image, on every inhale.

3. If you have distracting thoughts, acknowledge them but let them go. Keep focusing on your positive mantra or image.

Information excerpted from Lifescript, Healthy Living. For credits and full article follow the link:

10 replies

Nana_anna 2012-04-11 21:15:36 -0500 Report

With my back and spinal arthritis, it's hard for me to lie on the floor, so I do most of my exercises standing up or sitting. I do my leg lifts in the bathtub or on my bed. I have to have some resistence. I can go into spasims if I don't. I think walking is best for me. I go about 20 minutes in the evening, with my husband. I am starting an aquatic class to this week.

Caroltoo 2012-04-11 21:30:46 -0500 Report

I've broken my spine (weight bearing L5) in an auto accident and subsequently developed arthritis also, so I am really careful to. I do this first exercise while lying on my bed before I even get up in the morning. It stretches out the tight muscles in my lower back and makes my day go much better.

Nana_anna 2012-04-11 22:03:03 -0500 Report

Thanks for the tip. Sometimes if I do to much, I can feel my spine want to break in half. That's when I know I need to stop. The Dr. won't do anything right now. I wath what I do and how much I do things. That's a scarey feeling to. I will try those streches. :)

Caroltoo 2012-04-11 22:42:11 -0500 Report

Whatever you do, move slowly and smoothly and STOP if it feels stressful as opposed to stretching. I sometimes stretch when/where it hurts and go through the pain because I've done it and know it will help me. Other times, I try an exercise and immediately know it's not for me. Listen to your body and be gentle with it.

Young1s 2012-04-10 09:28:26 -0500 Report

I used to meditate all the time when I was younger but finding time became harder to do once I had 4 little ones running around. But I remember getting a euphoric sense of peace and balance every time I did. Thanks for the posting.

Caroltoo 2012-04-10 09:47:04 -0500 Report

It has a very calming effect. I have done that first exercise before getting out of bed each morning for about 10 years. Limbers and stretches the lower back so nicely; good way to ease into the day.

Teresa Rose
Teresa Rose 2012-04-09 20:21:44 -0500 Report

Thank You for posting this Carol. Very Good information !!! Exercise always helps me feel better in more ways than one. It does help me not to get depressed.

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