Depression is a serious mental health condition in the U.S. that has come into sharp focus with the rising suicide rates among young people in recent years
Depression is a complex disorder that is not yet fully understood, although some risk factors have been identified. These include a family history of depressive disorders, brain chemistry imbalance, trauma or negative life events, and temperament.
The primary symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling sad or hopeless much of the time
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in eating habits
- Trouble concentrating
- Feelings of unwarranted shame or guilt
- Slower cognitive functioning or movements
- Suicidal ideation
Experiential Therapy for Depression
Depression causes a decline in the production of important neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which can have adverse effects on brain health and functioning. Experiential therapy can offset this detrimental effect by spurring production of important chemicals. Engaging in 30-60 minutes of moderate exercise causes the brain to release the “feel good” chemical known as endorphins. As a result of physical activity, increased endorphin production directly elevates mood—like a natural antidepressant.
The clinical approach to treating depression is multi-dimensional. Clients may benefit from a combination of talk therapy, medication and experiential therapy. In reality, a client may feel so fatigued from the effects of depression that they struggle to get off the couch to actually get some exercise.
Movement-centered therapy, therefore, provides an adjunctive component to traditional therapy. Instead of a client sitting in a therapy session where getting exercise is just suggested to them, an experiential therapist will actually participate in physical activities along with the client, weaving the cardio activities right into the therapy itself.
The mental health benefits of cardio activity are plentiful. They include improved mood, increased self-esteem, increased self-confidence, better cognitive functioning, and reduced stress.
To further complement the effects of experiential therapy, clients are encouraged to establish a healthier lifestyle, overall emphasizing the mind-body connection. As a certified integrated mental health provider, I guide clients toward adopting a holistic approach to wellness. Regular exercise is one pillar, but to further enhance clinical results for reducing depression symptoms attention should also be paid to nutrition and sleep quality. Exercise, a healthy diet, and regular quality sleep will offer innumerable mental health benefits, as well as improve physical well being.