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by Tony Gjokaj February 21, 2024 4 min read

In the battle against depression, exercise stands as a powerful ally.

Yet, for many, the mere thought of hitting the gym or going for a run can feel daunting.

The key lies in transforming exercise from a chore into a journey.

A place where you not only become physically stronger... but mentally as well.

In this guide, we'll explore actionable strategies to enhance motivation, streamline the exercise process, and cultivate a consistent routine that amplifies its mood-boosting benefits.

Let's dive in!

How Does Exercise Help With Depression?

Exercise serves as a potent solution to the debilitating effects of depression, offering a multifaceted approach to mental well-being.

Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters known as the body's natural mood elevators, which can alleviate feelings of sadness and promote a sense of well-being.

Moreover, engaging in regular exercise fosters neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to adapt and rewire itself, leading to improved cognitive function and emotional resilience.

Additionally, physical activity provides a welcome distraction from negative thought patterns, offering a temporary respite from the relentless grip of depression.

Beyond its neurochemical and cognitive benefits, exercise also nurtures a sense of accomplishment and empowerment, bolstering self-esteem and confidence.

By incorporating exercise into one's routine, individuals can cultivate a holistic approach to managing depression, harnessing the transformative power of movement to reclaim control over their mental health.

With that being said, let's talk about cultivating motivation.

5 Ways To Cultivate Motivation

1. The Desire to Truly Want to Change

If you're asking how to stay motivated, chances are the desire to do the thing is not there... yet.

In the pursuit of using exercise for mental health, it's vital to acknowledge that if you're dissatisfied with your physical appearance or emotional well-being at this moment in time, there exists an alternative reality waiting to be discovered.

Embrace the understanding that the opposite of your current state is attainable through dedicated effort and commitment to this transformative journey.

By embracing exercise as your first tool for change, you open yourself to the possibility of experiencing improved self-esteem, vitality, and emotional resilience.

Allow yourself to embark on this journey with courage and determination, knowing that the path ahead holds the promise of a brighter, healthier future.

2. Start Small, Think Big

    Begin by setting achievable goals. It could be as simple as taking a short walk every day or doing a ten-minute home workout.
      Breaking down exercise into manageable chunks makes it less intimidating and increases the likelihood of sticking with it.

        Celebrate every milestone, no matter how small, to reinforce positive associations with physical activity.

        Motivation Hack: End your workouts on a good note.

        We tend to experience a recency bias: if they end on a bad note, you'll remember it.

        On my leg days, I used to treat myself with frozen yogurt, an assortment of fruits (sometimes adding the mini Reeses Cups in there from time to time), and a protein shake.

        Because of this, I look forward to my reward at the end of leg day.

        3. Create a Seamless Experience

          Reduce friction by eliminating barriers to exercise. Lay out workout clothes the night before, choose a convenient time, and find activities you genuinely enjoy.
            Incorporate exercise into your daily routine. It could be as effortless as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or doing squats while brushing your teeth.

              Utilize technology to your advantage. Fitness apps, online workout videos, and activity trackers can provide guidance and accountability, making exercise more accessible and engaging.

              Motivation Hack: Use a Calendar App to time block your workout sessions during the week.

              These apps will send push notifications when your workout is coming up to remind you.

              4. Make It a Habit

                Consistency is key to reaping the mental health benefits of exercise. Aim for regularity rather than intensity in the beginning.
                  Establish a designated workout schedule and stick to it, treating exercise as non-negotiable self-care time.

                    Associate exercise with existing habits or cues. For example, link it to your morning coffee or a post-work routine to anchor it firmly in your daily life.

                    Motivation Hack: If you have a large gap of time where you go and run errands, make sure to stop at the gym along the way.

                    The less stops home, the better.

                    5. Ramp Up the Excitement

                      Inject variety into your workouts to keep things fresh and prevent boredom.

                      Try new activities, explore different environments, or enlist a workout buddy for added motivation.

                        Set progressive goals to challenge yourself and fuel your determination.

                        Whether it's running a faster mile or mastering a new yoga pose, incremental improvements breed confidence and enthusiasm.

                          Cultivate a positive mindset by focusing on how exercise makes you feel rather than fixating on external outcomes.

                          Embrace the sense of accomplishment, stress relief, and mental clarity that physical activity provides.

                          BONUS: Cultivate a Supportive Environment

                          Surround yourself with individuals who uplift and encourage your fitness journey.

                          Whether it's joining a group fitness class, participating in online communities, or enlisting the support of friends and family, a strong support system can bolster your motivation and accountability.

                          Share your goals with others, allowing them to cheer you on and hold you accountable.

                          Accountability partners or workout buddies can provide companionship, motivation, and a sense of camaraderie, making exercise feel less solitary and more enjoyable.

                          Prioritize more flexibility and understanding on days when motivation wanes or setbacks occur.

                          Remember that progress is not linear, and every step forward, no matter how small, is a victory worth celebrating.

                          You don't need to hit bullseye on the dartboard each time.

                          To A LIFTed Mood.

                          The desire to truly want to change stems from a deep-seated longing for a better, more fulfilling existence.

                          By acknowledging your dissatisfaction, envisioning the opposite of your current experience, and believing in the possibility of change, you can embark on a transformative journey towards a happier, healthier you.

                          With empowered action, unwavering belief, and a willingness to embrace the ups and downs of the journey, you can unlock the potential for profound growth and create the life you've always dreamed of.

                          Thank you for reading!

                          Tony Gjokaj
                          Tony Gjokaj

                          Tony is the Owner of Reforged. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help millions exercise their way out of depression and anxiety.

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