Walking for Depression
The other day I was talking to a friend on the phone that was suicidally depressed.
After a long conversation I asked… “Can you go out and go for a nice long healthy walk tomorrow? The fresh air and exercise will do you good.”
She responded, “Doc, I am too depressed to walk right now, can you just walk for me?”
This got us laughing about how maybe we should start a “3 Day Depression Walk”, you know like what we do in honor of those that have survived breast cancer?
“I would walk for you, if I actually thought it would do some good”, I replied.
Believe it or not, if you struggle with suicidal depression, you are a survivor. When you consider the rates of suicide, and number of people that die in reckless activities each year associated with depressed or manic behaviors, you will soon realize that if you are safe and sound at home right now, regardless if you are feeling happy, or if you are feeling suicidal, you are still a survivor. For that you should be proud.
Depression is a difficult disease for those loved ones that do not suffer from it to understand, it does not physically disfigure a person, it does not create many physical symptoms, or anything too tangible to grasp on to. People that were born naturally happy just don’t really seem to understand the torture that lies under the surface of someone that suffers from major depression.
Victims of depression are simply prisoners of their own bodies, trapped in a world of physical and mental pain that can be at an excruciating level that most people may never have to endure until their own death. We then beat ourselves up about how we can’t seem to control our negative thinking and depressive behavior which only serves to potentiate the pattern.
I have had several patients describe to me that the pain from depression was so bad that “all I could do was cut myself and watch myself bleed to distract me from the pain raging inside my blood.” If you have lost a loved one to suicide, you know first-hand what a devastating disease depression is for family and friends.
Surviving the fear in our own minds, the anxiety associated with severe depression and learning to overcome it is one of the most challenging obstacles a person can overcome. Depression survivors are some of the bravest people that I know.
Most people are ashamed to tell their friends and family that they struggle with depression. They are expected to “not be so negative and just shift their thinking and be more positive” which is about as practical as applying a fresh coat of bright paint to a rotting house.
Alternative medicine is great for treating depression long-term; some people will still need to stay on their natural or prescription anti-depressants while they address the root cause of their depression via naturopathic medicine, therapy, counseling, craniosacral, energy healing, reiki, acupuncture, life coaching, or even prayer.
Changing diet, adding exercise, using herbs and other natural medicines are also extremely effective. Regardless of how you choose to treat your depression, never give up hope. There are endless options available. Remember that it is all about “progress and not perfection”.
I believe disease is our teacher, and that if we are good students and present for our life lessons we will grow and become stronger individuals.
Which is precisely why we should all put an END to the vernacular “struggling with depression” and replace it with “challenged by depression”.
Our teachers often show up at the oddest of times, not just when we are struggling with hardships, but also during those supposed happy times such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, brand new babies, new exciting jobs, vacation, retirement and other occasions in which we are supposed to feel happy. Sometimes we just feel agitated, which is a commonly under-reported sign of depression in men.
If you are depressed, I would encourage you to find a doctor to work with that is willing to look at your depression from a mind/body/spirit perspective. Put together a support team of counselors, teachers, doctors, friends, and family so that you are sure to be safe when severe depression or suicidal thinking strikes. Read my “Top Ten Tips For Those Struggling With Depression”. Also try to follow the Depression Diet so you can learn to eat the foods that will naturally raise your neurotransmitters. Stay tuned for future discussions on herbs and other alternative medicines that may be helpful as well.
With that being said, I would like to take a moment to encourage everyone with depression to start walking. Exercise in my opinion is more efficacious than most anti-depressants. The obvious obstacle is to get a depressed person out walking though. If you have a friend or family member that is depressed, make them move every single day. Insist they go walking, running, swimming or biking with you. Sign them up for salsa dancing. Play tennis. Organize a kickball game. Tell them you are picking them up for a hike at 8am. If you really want to help them, start the exercise routine for them, force them to do it, they will thank you eventually. An object in motion stays in motion. Exercise is a simple and free way to naturally boost our neurotransmitter levels.
If you are depressed and relatively inactive, work up to a new fitness program gradually and commit to moving your body every single day. My guess after three days of walking you will notice a notable improvement. Take a day off when you really need it, otherwise please just whatever you do, keep on moving, keep on walking in honor of your depression. You are a survivor, you are extremely brave, and for that you should be proud.
Hold your head up high when you walk. Never look down.
~Dr. Nicole Sundene