Walking Alters Your Brain when You Suffer from Depression

September 16, 2016
Did you know that getting physical exercise, moderate but continuous, can help you feel better if you’re suffering from depression? Just walking half an hour each day can bring you these benefits

When you suffer from depression, your world proceeds at a different pace. When your brain is going through this process you experience a much lower level of activity and makes fewer neural connections.

As explained by a study conducted at the University of Illinois, the amygdala, the structure that acts as the sentinel of your emotions, is operating at a much lower level during a state of depression.

All of these features have a very specific purpose: to force you to focus on yourself. You operate at a minimal level to allow yourself to analyze your inner world, to understand it and resolve it.

But it never comes easily. Depression cannot be cured just like the flu or an infection. In order to overcome this condition, you have to address the problem from a different approach.

First, if your doctor recommends it, you can pursue treatments with medication, complemented by the appropriate therapy.

Neurologists also approach this process by discussing what’s known as neuronal neuroplasticity.

Experiencing new stimuli and new sensations that are intense and meaningful can “reactivate” your neural connections. Something as simple as going for a walk every day in an outdoor setting can be very therapeutic.

Today, we’ll explore all the information. 

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If You Suffer from Depression, Go for a Walk

Scott Langenecker, a psychiatrist at the University of Illinois, explains that one of the factors that often triggers depression is “ruminant thoughts.”

People go through certain times when they become obsessed with negative or fatalistic ideas.

It’s like an endless refrain. Negative thoughts pile on top of each other until eventually, you’ve generated a fatalistic emotional process that causes you to fall into your own black hole.

Routines, living in small spaces, and even relating to the same or negative people all the time can further intensify this type of thinking.

Depression can be much more common in urban settings than in smaller towns or villages that are more in touch with nature.

suffer from depression

However, it’s not like we can all afford to drop everything and go live on a mountain. You just need to find a couple of hours for yourself to simply connect with nature.

If you suffer from depression, go for a walk every day in a park, a forest, or along a beach. Choose any green area where it’s easy to walk.

Here’s what you’ll start to notice after just a few days:

Your Mood Changes

When you get some exercise, even just a half-hour walk, your brain releases endorphins.

Endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain to reduce your perceptions of sadness, negativity, and even pain.

As neurologists will explain, endorphins provide pleasurable sensations, which many describe as a “runner’s high.”

It’s a positive and energizing feeling that triggers a break in obsessive and fatalistic thinking. It helps you put a lot of things into perspective.

Your Neuronal Connections Improve

We said before that there is an association between neuronal disconnection and depression. It’s interesting to know that moderate but regular exercise can improve the performance of your brain.

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suffer from depression

Something incredible is achieved in a variety of ways.

  • First of all, something known as “neurogenesis” creates new brain cells.
  • Plus, your heart rate is regulated, your brain receives more oxygen, and it also favors the release of more pleasant, positive, and motivating neurochemicals.

All of this internal “chemistry” creates new cells and favors stronger neural connections.

However, these benefits won’t appear right away. You need to be consistent with your daily exercise routine.

Just take a walk for a half an hour every day, remembering that these are “moments to yourself.”

Walking Enhances Your Creativity

You might be wondering how creativity can help you when you’re suffering from depression. Believe it or not, this powerful ability to encourage improvement will help you see a more positive path ahead for your recovery.

suffer from depression

Walking relaxes you. Every step you take and every breath of oxygen that you breathe in stimulates your brain.

It is in these moments of connection with yourself and your welfare that suddenly so many things will come into perspective. In turn, you’ll think of new ideas.

Positive thinking is a way to go about breaking the little chains that imprison you in your depressive state.

It’s possible that when you go for a walk you’ll have new ideas. That creativity doesn’t need to be related to something artistic. We already talked about that personal ingenuity that will help you climb out of your dark hole.

If you Suffer from Depression, You Can and Will Overcome It

Overcoming depression is not easy. However, a new dream, a project, a desire, and later, a decision that changes everything will one day appear.

It’s worth implementing this small change. If you suffer from depression, go for a walk and help your brain slowly begin to heal.

Mayo Clinic. (2017, September 27). Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495

Otto, M. (2011). Outwalking Depression. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/exercise-and-mood/201107/outwalking-depression