How exercise saves my life
Exercise is great. It does great many things for one’s physical health. What is often unrealised by many, however, is how great it is for your mental health.
When I first started getting depressed, way back younger, I used to do one of two things. On the one hand, I binge ate and got super fat. Like unhealthy fat. Real plain old, ridiculously overweight. Once I realised this, I basically starved myself into being thinner. And yeah that worked for my body. I mean I was pathetically weak and lethargic, living off a diet of slices of bread and coffee. So not only was I starving myself, I was getting no vital nutrients or minerals, and a cycle of self hate began.
In order to combat this, I went to the doctor for advice. Exercise they said.
Let’s face it, being depressed makes you unable to get out of bed somedays. Trust me. I know. So for the doctor to say that to me was like telling someone with no arms to go and tie up their shoelaces. It fell on deaf ears.
The thing is, I realised quite quickly with the help of a psychotherapist and Prozac, that I could eat more without my body hating me. The key was eating without feeling guilty, and without feeling like I was getting fat with every mouthful.
It’s true what they say, 70% of how your body gains and loses weight is down to eating. The other 30% is indeed exercise. So as the help began to take effect after a period of about a year, I then started eating better. Not just shit, like healthy food, balanced meals. But I still hated myself.
The key was in exercise. When you exercise, you change the way you think about yourself. Whether it be weights or cardio, each rep, each step forces your demons to lose their grip on your mind. The difference from changing the way you eat to changing how much you exercise is that you can feel the difference. You can feel your muscles working, changing, your heart pumping faster. It is a good, positive feeling that induces many chemical reactions in your body that prevents your serotonin levels from dropping too low. It maintains them.
Look if you’re depressed, the first thing I’d say is go get help, no shame in it. With that, start changing your diet, then finally, add in some exercise. Trust me it takes time. It has been 6 years since I was diagnosed and I still don’t take my own advice.
The thing is, balance is good and necessary. Don’t overdo the exercise; rest is important. Make sure you’re sleeping. Eat well on rest days, but allow yourself to eat like a possessed rat on others. Go and have a drink on some days, but just water, green tea and the odd coffee on others. The balance is important for Buddhists and something I wholly advocate. Live neither wholly good nor bad, find a balance, live half of each. I find that since being one of those vegetarian types I’ve branched out my eating, looking at meat alternatives and eating a tonne more fruit and veg in each meal and cooking from scratch. But whatever works for you.
Personally, I find cardio releases more of these ‘endorphins’ (I’m no doctor, I don’t know what happens) than weight training, but weight training in general makes me feel better about my body in the long run, so I incorporate the two. Before weights, I tend to take on a cardio HIIT to start the release and energise the body. I then head into weights, pumped and eager. Finally, I’ll finish by either jogging home from the gym, or a 10/15 minute medium paced jog. That way I get the best of both worlds.
The most vital part about exercise though is the music playlist. I tend to listen to some real heavy, intense music that pumps you enough to lift as heavy/as many reps as you can (if that is what you’re going for) or running as hard as you can. Blocking out the rest of the world/your demons/the pain of exercise is exceptionally important, and the best thing for that is the perfect playlist that does not need skipping. I wholly recommend never giving up and even a brisk walk is better than never doing anything. Trust me, exercise will help no end.
Here’s my playlist. I don’t need to hit that shuffle button.
Letlive – ‘Banshee (Ghost Fame)’, ’27 Club’, ‘Le Prologue/Sick, Sick 6.8 Billion’
Microwave – ‘Vomit’
Tyler, The Creator – ‘Yonkers’
Palm Reader – ‘I watch the Fire Chase My Tongue’, ‘Sing out, Survivor’
Dillinger Escape Plan – ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’, ‘Farewell Mona Lisa’
Heck – ‘Powerboat Disaster’, ‘Whorepaedo’
Balance and Composure – ‘Reflection’
Basement – ‘Spoiled’
Architects – ‘Naysayer’, ‘Gravedigger’, ‘Gone with the Wind’, ‘These Colours Don’t Run’, ‘Early Grave’
Parkway Drive – ‘Leviathan I’, ‘Dead Man’s Chest’
Drenge – ‘Running Wild’
Night Verses – ‘Antidepressants’
Sleep Talk – ‘Sorry’
Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes – ‘Juggernaut’, ‘Devil Inside Me’, ‘I Hate You’
Enter Shikari – ‘Solidarity’, ‘Sorry You’re Not a Winner’, ‘Gandhi Mate, Gandhi’, ‘Redshift’, ‘The Last Garrison’
Slaves – ‘The Hunter’, ‘Cheer Up London’
(Guilty pleasure) Shaka Ft. JME – ‘Say Nada [Remix]’