Sports vs Depression

Hello, guys and girls,

here’s a post I promised to write some time ago. As you can see it’s about the ongoing battle for a lot of people with depression. If I am not mistaken, these days it is officially recognized as a mental health disease and it is probably a good thing it is labeled as such, because it provides some kind of legitimacy to it. It’s not a fad, it’s not a first-world thing only, it’s not a matter of luxury. But if you are reading this and have experienced depression you don’t need me explaining this to you – you know it perfectly well.

As a person who has gone through extended periods of severe depression on the scale of years – during my late teens and mid 20’s, I can understand what we are talking about. There’s nothing worse than seeing no point in practically anything and having no desire for pretty much anything there is.

What I am going to write about now, though, is sports and how it helped me and millions around the world cope with those emotional imbalances. Activity and sports is one of the best known “medicine” for depression. In clinical trials sports beats hands-down every known anti-depressant in the long-term. The regression to the disease is lowest in groups of people who are committed to a training regimen. I remember watching a health course online where a doctor said: “If there was a way to combine all the positive effects of physical activity in a pill, we would have done it and we would be rich.”

The benefits of pretty much every type of intense activity includes:

  • better blood circulation, which benefits the brain immensely
  • release of important neurotransmitters in the brain, which help us function better
  • improved memory and overall mood
  • improved cognitive ability
  • improved neurogenesis after training – the birth of neurons in the hippocampus (a brain region in the base of our brains, which is in the form of a sea horse, hence the latin name). This is something that probably just 10 or 20 years ago was considered impossible. The rate of birth of new brain cells (neurons) after a workout, which engages the cardiovascular system, is increased up to 300%.
  • Sense of mastery and autonomy. When we are engaged in some kind of sports or activity we are finally in control of our lives and bodies. We gain mastery and autonomy in the process of practicising our arts and that contributes to us building up more confidence in our skills, as well as our selves.
  • As mentioned just above – increased confidence and self-esteem. The more you realize that you can do something the more you build trust and rapport with yourself.
  • Building a daily routine, which keeps us in line and rhythm.
  • Increased appreciation for one’s character and physical traits.

One of the benefits, which I just mentioned, is one of the crucial factors or maybe even causes for depression, according to professional literature, and that is self-esteem. In other words, the sense of self-worth a person has. One of the common denominators for all people suffering from this mental health issue is that the belief in their skills, worth, etc is compromised. Thinking of ways to improve, invest in building up and maintaining one’s self-esteem is one of the most worthwhile experiences people can create for themselves and practising a sport on a routine basis is a great way to do it!

Hit the gym, the road, the stadium, the mountain and to hell with it! 🙂

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