Exercise can lift you out of the blues

MENTAL well-being is not just about depression.

It's about finding joy in life and reasons to smile.

We all have times when that seems harder than it should, so for the next five Saturdays we will dedicate two pages to helping you find happiness this summer.

Short-lived highs won't get a mention here; expensive holidays, big nights out and shopping sprees - those quick-fixes can cause as much damage as good.

This is all about simple, everyday pleasures. And just being happy.


WANT to open your mind?

Fancy exploring a whole new world inside your head?

How does a chemical high stronger than anti-depressants sound?

What about a buzz more effective than sugar or coffee?

Yes? Then go camping.

“We are over-stimulated,” says Border psychologist Brian Hickman. “Sugar, electronics, caffeine, the list goes on.”

And the best tonic, he says, is exercise and the great outdoors.

“Going back to basics is opening your mind. There’s a whole world in your head to explore,” Dr Hickman says.

“Camping is great because it removes a lot of distractions. It allows you to centre with yourself, and once you’ve done that it is easier to connect.

“You can connect with friends, with nature, with the river and connection is a key to suicide prevention.”

As technology encroaches more and more on everyday life, psychologists are increasingly advocating the power of exercise and outdoor activity in maintaining or rediscovering mental health.

The New York Times last week reported on an emerging scientific theory that humans became so intelligent because “we could outrun and outwalk most other mammals over long distances. Our brains were shaped and sharpened by movement”.

But Dr Hickman, now a relationship counsellor in Albury, warns not to push yourself too hard, too early.

“It’s quite simple: Exercise has been shown to work better than anti-depressants when dealing with depression,” he says.

“But the irony is that it’s never harder to get off the couch than when you are depressed or flat.

“The trick is to fake it until you make it. Be kind to yourself; don’t push in a traditional exercise sense of ‘push, push, harder, harder’.

“Get out of bed. Have a bath. Rub the back of your hand ... all these little things can get your endorphins flowing.

“Then when you work up to exercise it will increase your endorphin flow 100-fold.”