Welcome to Joy Lab!: Welcome to the Joy Lab podcast, where we help you uncover and foster your most joyful self. Your hosts, Dr. Henry Emmons and Dr. Aimee Prasek, bring you the ideal mix of soulful and scientifically sound tools to spark your joy, even when it feels dark. When you're ready to experiment with more joy, combine this podcast with the full Joy Lab program over at JoyLab.coach
aimee: Hi everyone. Aimee here. So we are in our movement piece of our podcast, and I am really excited for this lesson. Movement is something that is essential for my mental health. It is more important for me, for my wellbeing than brushing my teeth, I think. So it was actually in a yoga class 22 years ago now where I had a moment of peace in my brain.
I remember it distinctly like a peaceful moment after so much chatter in my mind, so much self-destructive talk, so much grief that I had been stuck in. Movement helped me, uh, move out of that. It can be really powerful. I'm excited as well that we will start to add some more mindful movement practices to our offerings over at our resilient community. So stay tuned for that and I'll put the resilient community in the show notes. I'll pass it over to Henry for this lesson.
Henry: What if there was a treatment that was nearly always helpful, that had few to no side effects, that cost no money, or at least very little money, and was accessible to everybody? You'd want that, right? We call that exercise. Well, a lot of people call it exercise. I'm actually going to call it movement and I'll tell you why in a minute.
But let me start with a little story about movement. It's something I learned about this a few years ago. This is probably 10 or 15 years ago and I was speaking to a group of elder hostile learners and you probably have heard of that. Elder hostile is for elders who are still interested in keeping their mind alive and learning some kind of information and it happened to be, I was invited to speak to a group at the University of Minnesota about depression.
And so we were having a back and forth conversation about why is, is it that depression seems to be more and more common these days, which it is. And I said to the group of people who were in their mid to late seventies and early eighties, I said that I thought one reason it's getting more common is because life is harder now than it used to be.
You can probably see where that was a bad move on my part. This group of seniors who were about my parents age, roughly that generation, they said things to me like "sonny" and "young man," even though I already had my gray hair. And they quickly pointed out to me that when they grew up, which was generally, in the mid part of the last century, that life was actually really hard. And what they said that really kind of opened my eyes is that even though they all lived in the twin cities, Minneapolis, St. Paul, they, at least half of them grew up on farms. And that's really my point, is that earlier generations, our ancestors, really as far back as you want to go, our ancestors moved their bodies throughout the day just in the course of their daily lives.
They did not exercise. They did not go to the gym, generally speaking. Lift weights, you know, put on their running shoes. They didn't do that. Partly because movement was so woven into their day to day lives. Now, along with that, because most of our ancestors made their living through some form of agriculture or similar act, related activity, not only were they getting in movement for maybe six to ten hours a day, but they were exposed to sunlight, to the seasons, just to nature.
I mean, it was a very very different way of living. Now if you look at what the recommended amount of exercise is for people, for adults, in our country the Center for Disease Control suggests 90 minutes. It's it's two and a half hours a week if it's kind of moderate exercise and just 90 minutes, 75 to 90 minutes if it's more vigorous exercise. And then they suggest doing some kind of weight training or something along those lines.
Now, if you compare that, let's just say two and a half hours a week versus maybe six hours a day, you can see the problem. We are meant to move. We are not meant to be sedentary. Now, I'm saying this not because I have any problem with exercise as we've come to know it. In fact, I think it's very, very good. But I really want to invite you to think differently about it.
I want to think you to think about adding more movement into your day in a variety of different ways, as being the first and foremost thing that you can do as opposed to just, you know, say going to the gym for 30 to 45 minutes, three days a week.
So I'm going to talk to you about how to create a plan that we call the resilient movement plan, and you can download this material and really dig into it and craft your own, your own ideal plan.
But I want to talk through the elements of it a little bit and make some suggestions and even talk a little bit about how we can think about movement or exercise along the lines of the different subtypes.
I think it actually makes sense to think about incorporating slightly different activities depending on your subtype. Let me first though come back to this notion
that exercise or movement is really an effective treatment for depression. There is so much research on this. If you dig into the research on exercise and depression, there are so many
studies that have been done over the last 20 30 years, probably even longer than that, that continuously point to the value of exercise in treating depression. Now, I am not here to tell you that that if you just exercise, your depression is going to go away. I realize it's not that simple, but let me just tell you about one study and then talk a little bit about how you can think of why is exercise so effective.
So there was a study done just a few years ago with elderly patients with treatment-resistant depression. And that means by, that definition that they had tried at least two or more antidepressant medications and had not gotten better.
They had 150 patients enrolled in this study. They divided them into two groups.
The first group was told to walk for 45 minutes a day, five days a week. The second group was not given that instruction. So, basically, you had one walking group and one non walking group. Of the 75 people who walked, and they, by the way, they didn't always do 45 minutes a day, five days a week. If they even did half of that, they were considered to be compliant with the recommendation.
The group that walked had about a 25 to 30 percent rate of complete remission. Their symptoms went away completely. Whereas the group that did not had a zero percent. Not one of the 75 people recovered. Now, this is just one study, but it's compounded by dozens, probably hundreds of others, that continually point to the value of adding movement if you're dealing with depression.
as probably most of you do, that one of the problems with depression is that you lose your motivation. And getting out and moving and exercising is actually really, really difficult. So I'm going to suggest that you think about this in stages and that you do some of the other things that we've recommended in the program, like getting your sleep on track, maybe taking some of the supplements or natural therapies, changing your diet, that you get those things into a really good place so that your energy starts to come back and your motivation starts to come around. If you just get across a threshold and enough so that you can get out and start moving, I can nearly guarantee you it's going to help. So, exercise, it turns out, is almost universally helpful for mood. And you can look at research where they've taken people who are in the midst of a clinical depression, put them on a treadmill or some other kind of trainer and in 20 minutes, just a 20 minute session of kind of semi vigorous movement, the mood will come up.
And it doesn't last forever, but it lasts for a while. And it almost always feels better while you're moving. And especially, I think, if you're outdoors and moving in nature. So for most of you, even if you don't love exercise, you probably like being outdoors, you probably like just walking, and I just want to really emphasize that it does not have to be real vigorous. Especially at the start.
Just move. Just do a simple kind of a amble, if you will, or a non strenuous walk. If you can do it for a half hour a day to start with, that'd be great. If you can do it for 45 minutes a day, even better. 45 minutes, I think, is kind of the sweet spot. If you can do that most days of the week, you are going to notice, probably within a week or two, that your energy your mental clarity, and your mood all start to rise.
So I think if you were to pick one activity that would help lift your mood and that would help you get started on this track of mindful movement and resilient movement, it would be walking. I think it's the perfect exercise, so to speak. Doing it outdoors, doing it in a place that feels, you know, like a beautiful, natural setting to you is a huge plus, but just moving in any way that you can is going to be great.
So walking, really, really simple. Try and do that most days of the week if you can. If you want to add an element to this, it is really going to be helpful at energy production and then eventually at boosting your motivation, it would be simply doing what's called interval work or interval training, high intensity for just a moment.
Now let's just take walking, stay with walking. So let's just say that you're, you're out on a path, you're just walking along at a real gentle pace, then for a minute or so, 30 seconds to a minute, you just pick up your pace. You walk at a faster pace. You do not have to break a sweat. You don't have to get your heart rate up beyond a certain point, but you just accelerate.
You put more effort into it. You add a little more vigorousness to it. And you only need to do it for 30 seconds to a minute and you can go back down to a slower pace. Give yourself another two to three minutes at that pace just to recover. And then do it again. Just go up a little bit on the pace. So that's if you're walking, if you're using a treadmill or an elliptical trainer or something else, do the very same sort of thing.
Real gentle pace for at least 3 or 4 minutes to warm up, boost it to a much more vigorous pace for 30 to 60 seconds, go back down for 2 or 3 minutes. Try to repeat this 4 or 5 times, which means you can do a really, really effective a piece of movement in about 12 to 15 minutes, all that it would take. I do think it's really helpful to add some form of strength training or resistance training, which can take a lot of different forms.
Remember, gardening is considered to be strength training, especially more vigorous moving things around, digging, you know, getting up and down. That counts. A lot of different forms of yoga because you're using your body weight, you're supporting yourself, you're standing, you know, in certain ways for a little bit longer period of time.
It takes a lot of strength to do that. That is strength training. If you want to go to the gym and use the free weights, so much the better. But just know that you don't have to do that to get the benefit out of it. So some sort of gentle, steady aerobic activity, if you feel up to it and you really need to boost your energy, adding the interval work, and then doing something that gives you a greater sense of strength and ideally also doing something for flexibility.
So, we've got materials to help guide you and create the practice that really feels like it fits you. Probably the most important thing about this is that you do something you enjoy. If you enjoy it, if you get some pleasure from it, if it's easier for you to do and there's not a lot of barriers or resistance, you're just going to be able to do it more and it's going to have huge benefits for you.
Henry (2): Let's talk about those subtypes and things to consider for each one.
Henry: For the anxious mood, you don't need a lot of bells and whistles. You don't need to do anything very vigorous. This is sort of the perfect situation to just do a simple walking, easy bicycling, maybe gentle rowing, or some other rhythmic activity. It just needs to be rhythmic and steady and ideally something you do for 30 to 45 minutes.
But remember, you don't have to do that in one continuous stretch. You can separate it out if you'd like over the course of the day. I actually do think there's some benefit in doing something in a little more sustained period. But remember, it can be very mild, very gentle for that anxious mood pattern.
Now, if you have more of that, agitated energy, you know, already kind of restless and almost bursting with too much energy, then it really does help to do something more vigorous. This is really a good instance to do some kind of the interval work or the strength training. Um, or to do some sort of cooperative game or sport.
Just remember that if you have this pattern and there tends to be a little much irritability or agitation, if you're doing something that's really competitive, it tends to exacerbate all of that. So do something that's fun, that's a little more collaborative or cooperative. Games would be great, but, but not if it's overly competitive.
And then if you have the more the sluggish pattern or that's your tendency, there's a bit of a unfortunate irony here in that this is the group that probably needs the most vigorous exercise. So here again, If you are already in that state of lethargy, sluggishness, loss of motivation, don't expect that you have to automatically get out there and do all of these things at a vigorous pace.
But if you know that that's your pattern and you're not yet there, say it's a pattern as a winter or seasonal depression, try to get into a habit of doing vigorous exercise before the winter starts before the depression comes back. Because if you can do that, and you can sustain it, I think it is as effective, or probably more so, than a lot of the medications that are used to treat that kind of depression.
So, again with that pattern, you want something that is more, a little more intensive, a little more vigorous. Maybe going to a spin class, or another kind of exercise class so that you're around other people, but where they really do kind of put you through your paces a little bit. That would be really great. Now, I also think that in addition to this kind of regular movement and, you know, something that looks and feels a little bit like exercise, it's also really helpful to add what I refer to as mindful movement.
What does that mean? Well, you can actually add mindfulness to anything. You can add it to weight training if you want. If you really practice and you really emphasize being present for what you're doing. I actually think that you know lifting weights, doing dumbbells, whatever, it's more effective if you're really there for it in a present sort of way.
But there's some activities that just lend themselves to this mind body connection and those are things that a lot of you have heard about, probably you've tried. So yoga would be a great example for that. Tai Chi or Qigong would be another great example. And I really think it is helpful to go to a class with a great instructor to do something that is calming in that way.
I think for the anxious mood state, yoga is the perfect complement to walking. For the agitated mood state, I think yoga or qigong. Qigong is so calming. It does so much for energy and getting energy flowing and maybe some of that excess energy out of your body. That would be a really great class to attend. And then if you have more of that sluggish pattern, you know, you might want to do something a little more vigorous, like maybe a Tai Chi or other sort of martial art that's a little more movement, a little more intensity to it, that would be awesome. Because they often add an element of awareness or consciousness to it.
So I hope you make use of the material that we've talked about and the other additional material we offer here so that you can put together your own ideal movement plan and try to mix it up, vary it from time to time, add the different elements for just for interest or for enjoyment. And if you just get yourself moving, remember everything else you do in this course is going to go that much easier.
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