One of the more debilitating “problems” of having a chronic disease like fibromyalgia is depression. Whatever is going on in my fibro-brain is altering or dampening the neurotransmitters that impact mood. When my fibro symptoms really flare I become depressed – dog food or Depends commercials can bring me to tears and not because I use either . . . Most of the time my fiber-depression is minor and here’s one of the reasons why:
I walk my dog Freddie almost every day in the park. It’s 25 minutes of interval training. Freddie runs like crazy, stops, marks territory, runs like crazy, stops, sniffs, marks territory, runs, stops . . . I hold onto the end of the leash and follow his lead (with the exception of marking territory).
Years ago, I started saying a meditative prayer while on our walks. I repeat, ( sotto voce so as not to make others in the park suspicious I’m a terrorist) Allah ‘u ‘abha (“God is great” in Arabic – it’s more mellifluous than English). Afterwards, I feel relieved (the CALM-kind of relief, not the territory-marking-kind) and have little pain.
I was stunned to read this article on meditation and exercise to find not only am I saving time by combining the two I am self-medicating.
Fighting Depression? Neuroscience Says This May Reduce Symptoms by 40 Percent (in Just 8 Weeks)*
“. . . neuroscience research has identified a stunningly effective yet simple way to significantly reduce depression symptoms: combining aerobic exercise with meditation.
“In essence, neurogenesis researchers hypothesized that as depressive symptoms emerge, the production of new cells decreases. They noted that trauma and stressful life events are already known to impair neurogenesis, and that the literature has already established that aerobic exercise can significantly increase the number of new cells a brain creates.”
The problem is what happens after aerobic exercise: a great number of new cells die just weeks after being created. And if they don’t join the brain’s circuitry, they can’t bolster the brain, uplift mood, help a person experience resilience, or create a more robust sense of wellbeing.
Fortunately, while new neurons can die, they can also be rescued, which is where meditation comes in. It turns out that when novel learning experiences challenge the mind, new neurons are “saved.”
The study, published in Translational Psychiatry, outlined how the research was conducted: The neuroscientists developed a mental and physical (MAP) training plan for participants, which combined focused attention meditation with aerobic exercise.
“During the meditation portion, participants were instructed to focus on the present moment, refocusing on their breathing if thoughts drifted to the past or future. According to research, this helps those with depression (not to mention the rest of us) “accept moment-to-moment changes in attention.” This was followed by 30 minutes of “moderate-intensity” aerobic exercise.”
“Remarkably, the study found a nearly 40% decrease in depressive symptoms after just eight weeks of the training. They described these results as “robust.”‘
“As Tracey Shors, one of the study authors said, “Scientists have known for a while that both of these activities alone can help with depression … But this study suggests that when done together, there is a striking improvement in depressive symptoms along with increases in synchronized brain activity.”‘
“The researchers also pointed out that while the norm for treating depression has involved the prescription of psychotropic drugs like Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, and Lexapro, these drugs can have limited efficacy and can also lead to intense and disruptive side effects. Part of the excitement over these results is the fact that the practices involved are free, immediately accessible, and have no adverse side effects.”
*Read the entire article and click HERE.
Soon! Coming to a Computer Near You:
A post “Meditate with the Dalai Lama” that explains how to combine meditation with problem solving.