Will We Ever Accept that Exercise is Often the Best Medicine? | Mark’s Daily Apple.
In honor of Throwback Thursday, let me tell you a little bit about past me. He was often depressed. He struggled with anxiety to a degree that panic attacks hit him often. Once, when attempting to ride the bus to work he suffered a total meltdown, the drive pulled the bus over and a kindly fellow passenger took him off the bus and sat with him until help could arrive. He occasionally went through bouts of agoraphobia that confined his circle of movement to work, home, work, home. Even going out to the grocery store was impossible.
Sounds bleak, doesn’t it? Trust me, it was. So, not wanting to be debilitated like this, he sought out the advice of his doctor. The doctor was a good guy, who cared a great deal for his patients, and his initial advice was to “Just be nicer to yourself. Get out and do things that are worth doing.” The doctor wanted to send him to a therapist but the insurance company wouldn’t pay for that. They were more than happy to pay for drugs though. So he took them. And didn’t feel any better. The panic attacks weren’t as bad, but they still came. The fog of depression lifted, but it wasn’t replaced with joy.
The drugs brought with them side-effects. Disrupted sleep, weight gain, stomach cramps and poor digestion, occasionally increased anxiety (that’s awesome, give someone a drug to treat depression brought on by anxiety that causes more anxiety – did Joseph Heller think this stuff up?) and a host of other problems even I won’t write about on a blog.
Eventually, he got fed up with drugs that didn’t really help, often created new problems, or actually made things worse, sought out a therapist and actually started to make some progress. He had to pay for that therapy out of his own pocket, mind you (the idiocy of insurance not paying for talk therapy or CBT is fodder for a book’s worth of writing, but I’ll spare you… for now), but it has turned out to an excellent investment.
What’s my point? I don’t need to cover what Mark Sisson handles so well in the above-linked article regarding the obvious and impressive benefits possible by treating depression and other conditions with exercise. Here’s the thing – We modern humans are so impressed with our technology that we keep trying to use it to solve every problem, but there are many, many problems that simply cannot and should not be solved this way.
This guy, me, I wasn’t depressed because my brain chemistry was messed up. I was depressed because I’d developed bad habits as a child. I’d developed the habits of dwelling on unpleasant things that had happened in the past, and projecting that feeling of pain and fear into the future, and then becoming paralyzed with fear that everything I did would end in misery and pain. I got anxiety attacks because I turned maybes and could happens into will happen in my mind.
If you feed your body shitty food full of chemicals and pseudo-edible crap your health will suffer. Our bodies are made of what we eat. Eat junk = have a junky body. Garbage in = garbage out, as programmers say. Exercise and fitness works that same way. Want to run fast? Then run. Teach your muscles how to do the thing you want to do by repetition. No one who sits on their butt for 16 hours a day should be astonished when he/she cannot pick up a paperweight, or run a mile. You are what you do most of the time.
The mind is the same way. Dwell on misery, fear and suffering and that is what your mind will become accustomed to thinking about. It becomes a pattern. Someone once said the human mind is basically a pattern-recognition machine. Feed it specific stimuli and it will respond in the way it has been trained to do so.
I had to change my behavioral patterns to get better. Let me say that again – I had to change my behavioral patterns to get better. Just like I had to change my eating habits to lose weight and I had to increase my physical activity to get stronger and fitter (and it’s probably no coincidence that when I started taking better care of my body and being more active that my mind started to be more focused and fit as well).
We humans were not meant to spend our days glued to glowing boxes of light. Talk therapy works because, ultimately, having another human to open up to lifts the psychic weight from our shoulders. Exercise cures disease because doing is what we were designed for. I’ll say that again – Doing is what we were designed for.