Sport as a Treatment for Depression

Whether you’re suffering from serious depression, or you just have a mild degree of depression and aren’t feeling so ‘up’ on life as of late, one of the best natural treatment methods that you should consider to help out during these difficult times is sports.

Many people who are suffering from depression go straight to the doctor, who unfortunately may decide to prescribe drugs as a course of treatment.

While there’s no denying the fact that in very serious cases of depression, proper medical supervision and treatment is required as this can be a potentially life threatening condition if severe enough, in many cases, a natural approach should be taken.

There are many negative side effects to use anti-depressant drugs, so if it’s just a mild form in the first place, you’ll really have to think about whether the negative side effects offset the benefits. Perhaps there are natural things that you can do that are healthy for the body that will help you overcome your depression with ease.

One of those things being sports.  Let’s look at how sports can assist with depression so you can see this connection and possibly make the decision to give this a try for yourself.  Whether you’re using medication or not, it’s a fantastic way to improve your mental state and outlook.

Group Atmosphere And Social Connection

The very first reason why sports can be an excellent treatment for depression is due to the group atmosphere and social connection.  It’s been proven that those who have strong social ties show decreased rates of depression, or those who are suffering show a lower severity of the condition.

While when in a depressed state you may just want to hide away from all people as this is naturally what depressed individuals do, it is important to get out and interact with others.

The social connections can help you feel better about your own situation and produce a more positive mood. Since sports are all about team energy and connection, it’s the perfect group activity for you to be doing.

Feel-Good Endorphin Release

Next, the second important reason why sports are a great treatment for depression is because it’ll provide you with a dose of feel-good endorphins. Any form of physical activity that is relatively intense in nature, especially activity that involves high intensity stop and go exercise like sports does, will cause this endorphin release in the body to occur.

Some of these endorphins are actually the same ones that are released when someone uses recreational drugs, so you can imagine just how powerful they are. Obviously using recreational drugs is by no means a healthy way to treat your depression, so this makes sports absolutely ideal.

Many people know this endorphin release as the ‘runners high’, which runners tend to experience after a long run that wipes away all fatigue and puts them into a euphoric-like state.

Body Image Improvements

Moving along, the next way in which sports can help to treat depression is that it can significantly improve your body image.  Since you are going to be getting in good exercise, you may start to see a slight weight loss occur as well as improvements in muscle tone and definition.

If part of the reason you are depressed is because you have body image issues and possibly even an eating disorder (since eating disorders often do come hand in hand with depression), this can really improve this factor for you.

When you feel good about how your body looks and feels, it’ll naturally improve your mood for many people – especially if that is part of the root problem to start with.

Confidence Enhancement

Next up we have confidence enhancement. As you practice your chosen sporting activity, you’re going to start to see improvements in your performance and this itself will help to boost your self-confidence about your ability to achieve goals that you have set.

Some people who are suffering from depression may have partially got to the place they are in because they feel helpless to create the changes that they want in their life and unable to reach their primary goals.

Even something as small as a goal to make a basketball shot or score a goal in a hockey game can have a profound effect on your self-efficacy (self-belief) levels.

This in turn may help make you more confident in other areas of your life, so have terrific transfer over benefits.  If you lack confidence in our career, social relationships, or any other places where you spend most of your time, this can have a huge influence on your quality of life. As your confidence level grows and these areas improve, this too can reduce the symptoms of depression you’re experiencing.

Temporary Escape

Finally, the last reason why sports are an excellent choice to help treat and manage depression is because it can provide a temporary escape from the issues that are bothering you and the condition itself.

Since sports do require a good degree of concentration and focus, it will take your mind off your problems, easing the depression if even just for a little bit.

If you get involved with sports and are playing on a daily basis, as you can imagine, this is going to do a very positive thing for your mood and reduce the severity of the depression itself.

So there you have some of the primary reasons why sports can be a great way to treat depression.  Remember that it is still important that you do get checked out by a doctor or psychologist and receive proper medical attention.

Nothing is going to replace medical care if your depression is severe enough and you do have suicidal tendencies, so discuss all treatment options with the physician you’re seeing.

Depression can really be a very serious and debilitating condition in your life but with the right approach and some sound lifestyle strategies that are more natural for the body, you should be able to come out of depression and get feeling better about the weeks ahead.

 

[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”About the Author”]Shannon Clark holds a degree in Exercise Science from the University of Alberta, where she specialized in Sports Performance and Psychology.  In addition to her degree, she is an AFLCA certified personal trainer and has been working in the field for over 8 years now.[/stextbox]

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