An Unlikely Cause of Depression…

COVID has made everyone change their lifestyle in some way. People have become more aware of how important it is to keep one’s body in good shape. We now acknowledge the presence of the immune system within us and do our best to keep it happy.

Expectedly, a lot of people took up exercising. I can only extol such goodwill towards our bodies. We are on the right track to better health. That’s the sort of thing that makes my heart, often described by associates as weird and stubborn, to smile and flash with glee. Life ain’t always about pointing out the bad things that people are doing. When someone does something good to their body we celebrate it as well. It’s not the norm. It deserves celebration.

There will be three categories of people, broadly speaking. The first will start the fitness life and immediately quit because of fatigue, muscle pains and a deficiency of discipline. It was just too much work and pain. Maybe they were over ambitious in setting their exercise routines? This thing requires a humble heart, you know. We must be willing to start small. The punchline though, is that the body actually requires activity to thrive. It’s how we grew up. Don’t admonish your children for being unable to sit still. If they don’t move they don’t grow. That’s just how muscles work.

The second category are those who start and find the fun in it, so they just keep going. Planning was proper, the schedule was manageable and the exercise regimen was not a punishment to the body. They know exercise is about diversity (we don’t all have to run) and consistency rather than difficulty. It’s the little things in life that bring happiness and regular exercise is one of them. There’s so much sadness going around that anything that gives us a bit of glee should be grabbed with both hands.

The crux here is the third category. They started well. Continued well. They even clocked in a few months. Then, for reasons which scientists are still validating, they stopped. And they just never started again. You, my frien’, are on a dangerous path. It’s not just the sedentary lifestyle and his cousins hypertension, diabetes and arthritis. We now have a long lost relative to introduce ourselves to. And it’s going to be an uncomfortable introduction. Those family gatherings can get unnecessarily nervy at times. Oh hey look… Covid canceled the family meetings. Maybe I shouldn’t be smiling but I can’t help myself.

Depression is real. And it’s after the third category of people. But how? Isn’t depression supposed to be afraid of people who exercise? You are right and on this point you have spoken well. Exercise releases the “happy” chemicals . You know, dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine. They are celebrities these days. Most laymen don’t understand them really well but hey, at least they are out of the shadows. If you have exercised for a short period like the first category then you have not really reaped the blessings and curses.

Photo by Steven Arenas from Pexels

However, if you have been exercising then most likely your body has gotten used to it. Especially if you have a regular exercise regimen. Our bodies love habits and we pick them up effortlessly. So we were used to having a good release of the happy chemicals after that exercise session. The body was happy and registered it as the new normal because our consistency was impressive. Then we stopped exercising. And now comes the imbalance.

The “sad” chemicals that fuel depression actually have their place in life. It is the balance between the “happy” and “sad” chemicals that make us normal. We got an increase in the happy chemicals as a result of exercise so the body increased production of the sad chemicals so that balance can be maintained. Balance is very important. Not just inside but outside as well. Then the happy chemicals reduced abruptly because we stopped working out . Now there’s a problem. We have an imbalance to contend with. And it’s the dangerous kind. There’s more “sad”( like Gamma aminobutyric acid) chemicals than the happy lot. The conditions are ripe for depression.

Photo by from Pexels

Some changes take time and before the body can get the balance right again we will be in the hands of depression. A depression with all the fuel it needs. And depression is a cruel master. Life just starts to lose meaning and the things we enjoyed lose taste. Before you know it, suicide is getting uncomfortably close to you.

Exercise is good. We all need it. All of us, unless you have a medical condition that robs you of such a necessity. But we have to acknowledge that our bodies are complex marvels of engineering. We can’t just treat them the way we please. There will be consequences. And we will feel them. Sometimes immediately. Sometimes much later in life. But we will reap what we sowed. We may have towed the line on everything one can do to avoid depression, but an abrupt stop in exercising becomes our undoing. It would have been far better if we had not even started. May it not be so.

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