Or, maybe you took a postprandial ambulation - the proverbial after dinner stroll - in order to not just pass out or make a little more room for pie. Perhaps you got up early and headed to the lake for a Turkey Trot, or a studio and took a yoga class; saw lots of folks taking advantage of that yesterday.
The news in not earth-shattering, it doesn't need to come as a huge revelation, maybe more of a gentle reminder. When we get a little sad, we get a little heavy. Then, we get sedentary and inert. It takes a lot of will to break that inertia, so usually, the inertia builds and it gets harder and harder to get the gumption to do anything. Then, the preponderance of all that 'doing nothing' makes us depressed; we sit in the depression, getting more inert. Without some movement to get our glandular system going and get us really deeply breathing, it's just a vicious cycle of more and more nothingness adding to deeper and deeper despondency.
So, there really is only one choice and that is get moving!! Like, just get off the couch and take a short walk. Get up and stretch, arms overhead, then to one side, then the other. Go up and down some stairs, at home or at work; next time you have an appointment on the 2nd or 3rd floor, walk up. When you feel heavy after a meal, take a short walk or just go outside and breath some fresh air.
We think our lives are so hard, and we work endlessly to be able to buy convenience creating and the pursuit of leisure. For more and more folks that equates to an entitlement of 'not doing anything' or just 'vegging out' and we all know the variety known as couch potato...
A lot of folks work all day in relatively sedentary conditions - did you know that sitting at work for extended periods of time is actually shortening your life, almost as significantly as smoking!? Then, we sit in our car for a commute, come home and sit down and eat a huge, heavy meal, then plop on the couch to watch some Tube, while perhaps still snacking.
Movement and exercise help regulate the glandular and hormone system in the body, which regulates mental and emotional states. Optimizing our own body's system through regular movement and deep, focused breathing is perhaps the most basic and simple daily maintenance that we can perform. And, it doesn't have to be a huge investment or change. Simple, consistent actions have been shown to make a huge difference. Here's just a little science.
In a study of 65 women with depression and anxiety, the 34 women who took a yoga class twice a week for two months showed a significant decrease in depression and anxiety symptoms, compared to the 31 women who were not in the class.
“Eastern traditions such as yoga have a wonderful antidepressant effect in that they improve flexibility; involve mindfulness, which breaks up repetitive negative thoughts; increase strength; make you aware of your breathing; improve balance; and contain a meditative component,” says Norman E. Rosenthal, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.
Now, I know I'm a yogi, so of course, you say, the answer is yoga... yes, but there are other choices! Like yoga, the slow, gentle movements of Tai Chi are another Eastern tradition that might help you break free from sadness, the blues, depression or major depressive disorder.
In a study of 14 older Chinese patients with depression, those who took Tai Chi over a three-month period showed a significant improvement in their depression symptoms. The researchers theorized that the social aspects of Tai Chi, which is done in group settings, may have also played a role in its effectiveness.
That's interesting and helpful. The social aspects may or may not contribute to the overall health, as I talked about in the post on Bonding. It's always interesting to see how these various actions, traits, attributes and choices all serve to reinforce each other... being in community, bonding, accountability, empathy, service, etc.
We all know that having a community creates some accountability. I know yoga students, and have been there myself, where we know that on one particular day what draws us to get out of bed and on the mat is the community and our accountability to it - whether that means we show because they show, or that we know they'll tease us about why we didn't, or that there is a simple unspoken recognition of "if they are, I will." Accountability works and community creates accountability. On top of that, it also reinforces feelings of good will.
I'll be completely honest with you, and you may find this amusing or even concerning, coming from a "Yoga Teacher"... there are many times that I need that accountability and approach my practice with lethargy, or dread, or apathy. And, time after time, I experience those heavy feelings just dropping off of me, as I just get present, connect to the intentional yet casual community and link movement, breath, and attention. I'm talking usually before the third Surya Namaskar. It's really that quick, that effective, and I've never regretted getting into my movement and my breath, and working to create a yoga through asana and pranayama.
Move, breathe, take a walk, swing your arms, stand like Wonder Woman, run like you're wearing a cape, take the stairs, park farther away.
Give thanks and praise, tune in tomorrow for Step 8 - Sit!