SWEATING OUT SADNESS: How Exercise Can Help the Grieving Process
By Dr. Mercola
Any significant loss in your life can trigger a powerful grieving process. A death in your family, the loss of a pet, divorce, or even being laid off may send you whirling down a roller-coaster ride of emotions; numbness, anger, denial, despair, isolation, and depression… all are par for the course when you’re grieving.
Adding to its complexity, grief is rarely an orderly process… it may come on suddenly or grow slowly over weeks and months. As you accept the loss, you’ll probably experience extreme lows followed by periods of normalcy, only to be drawn back into sadness by a painful memory or, often, for no reason at all.
When you’re in the throes of such intense emotion, your instinct may be to isolate yourself alone in your bedroom – or it may be to surround yourself with people for distraction. There is no right or wrong process, only what works for you, but there is one activity that seems to offer benefit universally for virtually every grieving person who tries it, and that is exercise.
When you exercise, particularly at high intensity, it requires intense focus while giving you a sense of control. If you’re lost in a seemingly bottomless-pit of shock and disillusionment, exercise brings a sense of purpose that requires nothing more than putting one foot in front of the other.
Even if you feel you can’t bear to drag yourself out of bed, try to get up and get moving.
After a breakup, one 31-year-old woman described the way exercise helped her to take back control of her life:1
“The running helped me remember ‘I am big. I am strong.’ …In the beginning, I thought ‘I may not be able to control all these other things in my life, but I can control this.’ Then it became ‘Well, if I can control that, what else can I take back?’”
Part of the reason why exercise makes you feel better is because of its impact on your brain. It will increase blood flow to your brain, for starters, allowing it to almost immediately function better. If you’ve been in a grief-induced fog, this can help you to feel more focused, virtually immediately.
A number of neurotransmitters are also triggered, such as endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and GABA. Some of these are well-known for their role in mood control. Exercise, in fact, is one of the most effective prevention and treatment strategies for depression.
***So when the inevitable happens to all of us at some stage, and sometimes many stages in our lives, take note of the above.
A weekly long brisk walk/hike, a jog or run (book yourself in for one of the many walk/jog or run events that run throughout the year and get into a training programme for them), Join a gym for a month or two, a walking or running club, or a fitness class.
You wont regret it.