If you aren’t a runner, substitute running with walking. If you are new to running remember to build up how much you run gradually. Running is a natural way to improve depressive symptoms, and to manage mood. Having a routine is essential to gain the most mental health benefits, but even just one run can act as a short term mood boost.
A common assessment strategy therapists use when a client is reporting depressive symptoms is a simple tracking calendar. For a week a person will be asked to record hour-by-hour activities. As the therapist I'm looking for patterns in the person's routine that may indicate emotional dysregulation.
Emotional dysregulation---the cause of the depressive symptoms--- is often a result of an imbalance in the brain chemistry or hormonal makeup of a person. The factors that contribute most to a person's sense of emotional regulation, sometimes referred to as a sense of well being, are things like sleep, diet, and exercise.
It should be noted that some people require medication to improve any imbalance in this chemistry/hormonal makeup. This will be true for chronic mood disorders like bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder. However, all mood imbalances can be improved by treating any of those regulatory factors: sleep, diet, and exercise. Some mood symptoms are entirely eradicated by making lifestyle adjustment that improve sleep, diet, and/or exercise. Some symptoms only improve with a combination treatment.
If a person is sleeping poorly and mostly sedentary it would not be uncommon to see that person suffering from lack of motivation, feelings of low satisfaction, self worth, and well being. They would seem depressed. That is because the sleep and sedentary behavior lowers dopamine levels in the brain responsible for motivation, it lowers norepinephrine which softens the ability to focus, and the combination reduces serotonin responsible for feelings of satisfaction and happiness. And voila, the recipe for a depressed mood. This article won't get into it, but these things are also impacted by negative self-talk, past trauma's, and stress/anxiety.
Running, and other forms of cardio exercise are a wonderful treatment option for a person that falls into these sorts of depressive patterns because running increases dopamine, increases norepinephrine, and serotonin. It is these brain chemicals that contribute to the "runner's high" that is commonly experienced by routine runners. In addition, people who run consistently report sleeping better, and tend to be conscientious about what they are putting into their bodies. In short, running helps to regulate a person's neurological chemistry and directly impacts depressive mood symptoms.
Some runners report that when they run they get into a state of "flow". Flow is defined by the brain associating hard word with motivation and focus leading to feelings of fulfillment and enjoyment. What neuroscience tells us is that flow is caused by an increase in dopamine and norepinephrine which is the byproduct of the physical effort behind running.
I hope this is helpful information for anyone seeking to improve their life through lifestyle changes like regular running.
We all have many roles in our lives. Few are as life changing as becoming parents. When a child enters the equation we suddenly have new obligations, new needs, new wants. We run on a very few hours of sleep. We adapt to become families (or grow our families bigger). We no longer can do just about anything on a whim. Due to many of these changes many new parents find themselves isolated. Their social lives look different, their days look different, sometimes even their interests look different. Social isolation and life stress is one reason some parents become depressed. Today I wanted to share some resources to help parents (mom's specifically, although dads are not immune to these feelings and reactions) feel connected and supported.
Since I'm located in San Mateo, some of these options are too!
- If you have children under 5 you can connect your child with social support and yourself through a local mother's club! Mother's Clubs offer a variety of ways to connect like play groups, support groups for specific issues (i.e. working moms, parents of kids with special needs, etc). They offer community activities and opportunities for learning and growth.
San Mateo Mother's Club: http://www.sanmateomothersclub.org
Belmont Mother's Club: http://www.scbmc.org/membership.html
- Check with your local library for story times, book clubs, and other social gatherings. I've personally met quite a few like-minded moms with similarly aged children to my own via my local library. Some options for connecting, like this one, do you require you to put yourself out there... which can be scary, but I encourage you to try!
You can search for groups of people that have similar interests as you (music, running, wine, parenting, etc) and join a group: http://bay-area.meetup.com
Create an account at girlfriendsocial.com, it is kind of like a online dating service, except it's for meeting friends. You create a profile and contact people based on your compatibility for friendship: http://www.girlfriendsocial.com
eeling supported and connected to people in your own community is enriching for you and your children. These can be great resources for transitioning (or managing) life stresses associated with parenting!