This is the second episode in a 10 part series about ways to reduce anxiety and depression. Vincent and Laura discuss healthy coping skills that relate to exercise. They discuss psychological studies that validate these methods and give helpful tips. 

055 Personal Growth: Coping Skills Part 2 – Exercise

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SHOW NOTES

We hope you enjoyed last week’s kick-off to our series on 101 Ways to Cope With Depression and Anxiety. Over the next nine weeks we will be discussing over one hundred ways to cope with anxiety and depression. As we mentioned in our episode on depression and anxiety, depression and anxiety can cause discouragement and a sense of overwhelm.

Our goal for the next few weeks is to provide you with a list of coping skills that are attainable.  No one can say that they cannot do any of the over one hundred activities that will be discussing.  That’s encouraging!

Each week there will be a theme for the particular activity that is featured.  We have grouped the one hundred and one skills into ten different themes.  God, exercise, slowing down, fun, animals and nature, socializing, aesthetics, creating and learning, touch and smell, and helping will be the themes.  

In the last episode, we discussed God as the foundation of where we find peace of mind and provided many healthy activities that you can do to improve well-being and mood. 

In 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 we learn that our bodies “are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

…Honor God with Your Bodies – EXERCISE

The American Heart Association recommends that we have at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. For someone experiencing depression, summoning the motivation to run may feel like trying to pry your feet out of cement. 

Many people suffering from depression have an all-or-nothing thinking habit which discourages them from being active.  They may think “if I can’t run five miles, then I shouldn’t exercise at all.” 

That’s where today’s suggested activities steps in. This week we will take Philippians 4: 8 into the realm of exercise (think on things true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. Meditate on them.)  Although running is one possible mood-booster, it is not necessary to be physically fit or to improve depression.  

Whatever is…..Lovely

We will begin with walking.  Have you ever noticed that taking a walk seems to clear your head?  It gives you a change of scenery and an opportunity to appreciate the world outside of your 9 to 5 existence (or in the case of someone struggling with severe depression, out of your bed.) Walking has been shown to improve memory, along with many cardiovascular benefits.  

2.  Go for a walk. According to Harvard Health Publishing, walking for 2 1/2 hours per week can reduce your risk of heart disease by 30 %, and some studies show that walking can be as effective as drugs at reducing depression.

If you struggle with the idea of starting the habit of walking or any other form of exercise, remember this:  If for the last few months you have completed zero minutes of exercise, five minutes today is a great start. 

Don’t feel that you must complete an extensive and exhausting workout the first time you try.  Try five minutes today. Try five minutes tomorrow.  That’s still ten minutes this week that you did not do over the past few months. 

You may surprise yourself by going past five minutes! Next week try ten minutes each time.  (Don’t forget opportunities to park further away in parking lots to add some distance for your feet, or to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Find ways to add an extra minute here and there. Your body and mood will thank you!)

Another great way to take in the scenery is to tap into your inner child and ride a bike. You never forget to ride a bike!

10.  Take a bicycle ride at the park. Cycling can help reduce stress naturally.  According to Dr. David Conant-Norville at Vanderbilt University, activities that require quick reactions, balance, and decision-making skills like cycling help control ADHD in children. In a study, adults who performed a short but complex exercise were 40 % more likely to solve a problem that required focus than participants who were idle.

25. Go kayaking down a gentle stream in the mountains.  Kayaking provides an immersive experience of communing with nature, which provides a calming, meditative experience.

48. Go for a swim. Aerobic activity reduces depression symptoms. Swimming in particular offers a quick way to release endorphins – the feel good hormones. At the same time, some of the fight-or-flight hormones are taken up as well, reducing anxiety.

Whatever is…Noble

Being a good sport is a fine quality. That’s why we’re looking at certain activities as “noble.”  They provide the body and mind health benefits, but they also build strength of character. 

8.  Play a sport. According to the League Network, sports stimulate the body’s production of endorphins, the team participation builds self-esteem, the activity promotes better sleep, and the social engagement provides emotional support by sharing a common interest.

34. Run or walk in a 5K race. For those suffering from mild to moderate depression, running can be just as effective as anti-depressants.  Running is so effective, a psychotherapist in California practices “on-the-run” sessions. 

79. Horseback riding. Horseback riding has many physical and mental benefits.  It helps the rider develop greater confidence and to cope with fear.  It increases energy and is a great stress reliever.

Whatever is…Pure

We all have experienced those moments that require intense focus.  When we focus it means we have to eliminate all other distractions and place our attention solely on one thing.  It’s a “pure” action. 

Some people feel close to God when they are outside on the golf course or fishing.  I know this seems like a joke or an excuse, but for some people these activities pull them away from the distractions of other people and concentrates their focus on God’s creation.

17.  Go fishing. Fishing is a great way to spend time in the outdoors, to get some physical exercise, and relax. Studies have shown that a weekend fishing trip can reduce the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in war veterans for as long as three weeks afterwards.

56. Go to the driving range. Smacking a golf ball can relieve a lot of tension. Golf requires a lot of concentration which can help get your mind off of other things as well.

Whatever is of…Good Report…

We are told to think on things of good report.  This pertains to others and how we experience the world with them.  What better way to get to know people and enjoy the company of others than to play with them?

74. Go bowling with friends.  Socializing just once a week can lessen one’s chances of suffering from depression, along with improving our immune systems.

Conclusion

How we feel is tied to how we think.  In cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, we learn that if we change the way we think, then our behaviors, actions, and feelings will change.

Unbeknownst to him, Paul was an early cognitive behavior therapy pioneer.  His letter to the Philippians was all about focusing our thoughts on what is good and that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” 

Our hope is that our coping skills list are opportunities for you to see that you can do more and be more than you ever imagined all while improving your relationship with God.  

Published by

Vincent & Laura Ketchie

Vincent Ketchie, LPC and Laura Ketchie, LPC are the hosts of Relationship Helpers, a podcast where they discuss family issues and interview relationship experts. Vincent and Laura are licensed marriage counselors.

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