Second, exercise — When you exercise, your brain functions better, your body works better, and you feel better. Exercise has several components:
- Exercise strengthens the heart, circulatory system, and respiratory system so we can get maximum amounts of oxygen and nutrients from our lungs and gut efficiently and quickly up to the brain.
- Exercise releases endorphins which are the feel-good hormones of the brain that improve our mood, giving a natural high and sense of well-being.
- Exercise provides us with time away from the stressors and pressures of life, and allows us to engage in something enjoyable.
- Exercise is something we can have some affinity to and proficiency with and can see ourselves improving and getting better at something.
- Exercise helps us learn how to take charge of our life, make a plan, and stick to it. Just like when we were babies and started to do physical things to gain command over our environment and meet our needs, the same kind of psychological excitement and freedom are re-visited when we exercise.
- The way they act on us over time is as depressants in the emotional and thinking areas of the brain.
- They can acutely worsen or intensify our emotions thus interfering with our thinking, judgment, and decision-making process when they are in our system. For example, alcohol amplifies anger, loneliness, or sadness; caffeine amplifies stress, frustration, or irritability.
- They actually can cause damage to the brain by being toxins to the brain cells, constricting the blood vessels and reducing the blood flow in the brain, or by interfering with or blocking the neurotransmitters that communicate messages from one area of the brain to another.
- Some substances interfere with our ability to perceive reality accurately, leading to misperceptions, hallucinations or delusions which produce poor decisions that increase our stressors and lead to worsening depression.
Fifth, take care of our physical ailments — Physical ailments can hamper or stress our daily activities, causing us to slip into depression. Certain ailments can chemically effect the brain’s functioning, like diabetes (with to high or too low blood sugar) or pain syndromes (chronic or acute pain) or seizures (having a seizure and losing driving privileges or breaking a leg). If you have a physical ailment, you can talk to your doctor about the optimal treatment to minimize the ailment and its ripple effect in your life. Then you need to follow the treatment plan to maximize the healing and lessen the consequences. Following the treatment plan could also lessen the amount of medications you would have to take as some medications – especially pain meds – can impair thinking, moods, and functioning as well.
On the next page we will discuss the professionally delivered or more formal antidepressant therapies such as medication, talk therapy, and renewal through good decision making. In the meantime, keep in mind the encouragement God gives us in Scripture to take care of our bodies and minds:
“Do you not know that your 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.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)