Meditation and Exercise for Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Inner power starts with a clear mind. It’s only with a clear mind that you can tap into your power and find both mental and physical strength to beat seasonal depression.

Exercise and breathing help you release stress and anxiety so that you can move about the world with a clear and calm mind. Stretching and strengthening, breathing, and getting the heart pumping are essential to keeping the mind clear and at ease. For me, yoga and meditation are key to connecting the mind and body and building my armor of mental and physical strength. Even in my weakest moments, I can muster up the strength to meditate and breath.

Meditation is like a super power – centering the soul and calming the mind. Studies show that meditation may improve calmness and efficiency of the brain that can extend past the period spent meditating, carrying out through the day. Meditation can decrease blood pressure, decrease stress, help stop repetitive thoughts, and clear the brain so that thoughts can be refocused in a positive way, improving one’s ability to engage in the techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy. 

In addition to yoga and meditation, regular cardio exercise can help tremendously with anxiety. When my anxiety levels are very high, it’s tough for me to focus enough to do yoga or to meditate, but I can walk, and then I can run. I can start moving and pushing my body, using the anxiety and negative energy to propel myself forward. The negative energy eventually burns up, leaving me more relaxed and clear headed. 

I wish I could tell you that I’m very consistent and disciplined with my exercise routines, but the truth is, I’m not. There are days, even weeks, where I fall into a bad cycle of not exercising for one reason or another.

In his well known book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Steven Covey promotes self renewal through physical, social/emotional, spiritual, and mental dimensions. On physical renewal, he writes “A good exercise program is one that you can do in your own home and one that will build your body in three areas: endurance, flexibility, and strength.”

When I first read this recommendation I got caught up on having an exercise program that I could do at home. At the time, I had a gym membership and I thought that was good enough. I convinced myself that I was already doing the right thing. When I was able to get out to the gym or workout with friends, it was my preferred way of staying fit and active.

Now, as a mom with very little time of my own, I find Covey’s recommendation to be valid. Having a home exercise program is the only way that I’m able to consistently maintain my fitness year round. Running is my go-to cardio exercise, and I can get up early and go for a run before my family wakes up. Thankfully, I have a treadmill, so this works for me about most of the year.

Before getting the treadmill, I had a lot of experience falling into a funk of not exercising at all during the months of dark mornings and bad weather. The way I turn around a bad cycle of not exercising is to ease back into it. First I’ll work on waking myself up early, then I’ll start to do some gentle stretches and a walk, adding on more each day until I’m back to a strong routine. 

Staying physically and mentally fit can be daunting, but it’s also one of the best things you can do for yourself to keep the winter blues away. When you fall into the habit of not exercising, remember tip #1 and be kind to yourself. Then start taking care of your body without judgment. The most important thing is to consistently try. You’ve got this.

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