For the one million and third time, I remind you: Exercise is very (very!) (very!!!) good for you. 🤓
Today I want to talk about the second tip to get on that Upward Spiral: MAKE DECISIONS.
Exercise is pretty obviously a wise thing to do. But making decisions? How’s THAT going to help me kick the funk of depression?
Well, Alex tells us: “When everything is up in the air, the amygdala becomes more reactive. So if you tend to worry, reduce your options and make quick decisions whenever possible. As soon as you make a decision, however small, everything starts to feel more manageable.”
He also tells us: “Figure out what’s important to you. To help reduce irrelevant details in your life, focus on what’s really important to you. Studies have found that focusing on your values reduces the brain’s response to stress. So think about the times in your life when you were happiest. What were you doing then, and what factors contributed to your happiness? What activities make you feel most fulfilled? What achievements are you most proud of? What good qualities would you want coworkers or friends to use in describing you?”
As you may have noticed, when our mood drops and we feel more stressed and anxious and depressed, we have a harder time setting goals and making decisions.
Make decisions. However tiny.
When we do that, we regain a sense of agency which is so essential to our well-being. On the other hand, “Indecisiveness is part of the downward spiral because it enhances your feeling of being out of control.”
Alex also talks about the power of reducing choices in our lives and leans on the wisdom from Barry Schwartz’ Paradox of Choice.
Earlier in the book he tells us: “Go for good enough. Worrying is often triggered by wanting to make the perfect choice or by trying to maximize everything. When buying a used car, you want one that is cheap, reliable, safe, sexy, the right color, and fuel efficient. Unfortunately, no single option is likely to be the best in all those dimensions. If you try to have the best of everything, you’re likely to be paralyzed by indecision or dissatisfied with your choice. In fact, this kind of ‘maximizing’ has been proven to increase depression. So don’t try to make the most amazing dinner; start out by just making a good dinner. Don’t try to be the perfect parent; just be a good one. Don’t try to be your happiest; just be happy.”
While in this context he tells us: “When your prefrontal cortex has to loop through many potential scenarios, it increases the risk of triggering anxiety or worry. When you decide on one path, then you’ve reduced the number of variables the prefrontal cortex needs to optimize.”
One more time: Set goals. Make decisions. Take action.