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Why exercise can help alleviate depression

Handstands?

I remember being quite surprised when my yoga teacher said that the yoga posture for treating depression is a handstand.

But when I thought about it, it made sense. When we are depressed, we just feel like curling up and collapsing. A handstand compels us to to be strong and upright, albeit upside down.

Depression is a strong emotion. It may not seem so to onlookers, but anyone who has been truly depressed knows that there is a lot going on inside. Thoughts go round and round like hamsters on wheels. We obsess about our situation, about how bad we are, about how hopeless we feel.

And strong emotions are accompanied by stress hormones.

If all we do is to sit around or lie in bed, the stress hormones stay in the body. The perceived threat is still there, the body remains on high alert. Nothing changes.

However, exercise is one of the best ways of dissipating stress hormones. It’s quick, easy and, within reason, without harmful side effects. Our bodies are designed to take action when the fight or flight mechanism is activated.

In the case of depression, the threat is not a runaway lorry or a mugger which would force us to run out of the way or fight off the attack. The threat exists inside our head.

Nevertheless, the same stress hormones are present, and will be dealt with if we run up and down the stairs a couple of times, walk briskly round the block, do a few star jumps or do anything that will make us slightly out of breath.

If you are depressed – just try it. You will be surprised at how much better you feel.