Exercise as Relief From Recurring Thoughts

Hi, friends. I’ve mentioned before that I’m very reflective–bordering on obsessive. Especially when a situation either stresses me out or upsets me, certain thoughts run through my mind over and over again, sometimes for more than a day.

The recurring thoughts may be hypothetical conversations or statements that were actually said. Regardless, it’s annoying and kind of miserable to continuously dwell on the same negative thoughts. The activities you’d think would help clear my head like getting lost in a book become next to impossible thanks to my mental distraction.

So, on to the point…a great way to (at least temporarily) remove recurring thoughts from my mind is to exercise. 

I literally cannot think about anything while I exercise.

Since I use a wheelchair, the primary reason this works is probably that exercise is incredibly difficult for me. Even walking across the room (while holding my trainer’s hand of course) is exercise.

So, for this idea to work with able-bodied people, casually walking on the treadmill at a slow pace probably won’t cut it…you’re going to have to exercise hard to stop replaying the negative thoughts. Run on the elliptical. Lift weights in sets, going heavier each time. Go for cardio and strength-training. Anything to get your heart pumping and your sweat flowing.

Though casual exercise is productive and healthy, intense exercise may be more effective at clearing the clutter in your mind.

VERY IMPORTANT: Don’t look at your phone between machines.

If you find yourself desperately needing a mental break, go for a run or go to the gym. Get out of your own head! Science says that exercise helps with depression, and though I don’t exactly know how, I assume this idea somehow connects to that.

Thanks for reading! Does exercise have therapeutic benefits for you?

34 comments

    1. I hope that you can maybe do some light exercise to increase your stamina. Anything is better than nothing! 🙂 Also very true that you can get out of your head by getting into His word! Blessings to you, Michael.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I really do need to exercise. But when my brain is spinning and replaying a conversation, i love to go to the piano. No, i am not a great pianist; but at those times, i think my playing and singing sounds lovely to God because it is truly from the heart.

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  2. So true. This is what I tell depressed people. You can not be depressed if you’re swimming, running or other exercise. Yet, it takes an act of God to get depressed people out of bed. Once going, they’re fine.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I really do not like exercise, but I have been working on following youtube videos likes Befit and FitnessBlender. I also really like follow Denise Austin’s exercises, she covers everything from stretching to cardio. I don’t like doing the exercise, but I admit I definitely feel better afterward.

    I’ve found spending time outside, just sitting near a tree has really helped me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I believe it all has to do with the chemicals released in our brains when we are physically active. The endorphins we release are a natural mood booster.

    I also feel much better mentally when I exercise on a regular basis. Due to the joint issues I’m having, doing strenuous exercise isn’t going to happen right now, but I need to get back to doing pilates. It’s so breathing and stretch-focused, and it definitely helps bring out a calmer me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. With your goals to find balance in life and being an introvert, I imagine that meditative exercise like Pilates or yoga would kill two birds with one stone by making you feel better physically and mentally! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  5. That’s great advice Lily. You are such an inspiration to me! I have only just started taking exercising seriously, as I have started to feel my limbs atrophy and I awake with pains which I know are caused by lack of exercise. Being a super skinny and being underweight all my life, I have used that as an excuse to not do it. I come from a family of skinnies which is no joke despite the jealous comments I receive. I realise it is important to get regular exercise no matter one’s size and of course it helps with the emotions too. I don’t go to the gym, but do dance exercise each day to get my heart going. I’m rubbish at picking up moves, but I have made myself learn a move which was impossible for me for 4 months. I just couldn’t get my legs to move at the same time as my arms because the arm movements are faster. Isn’t it wonderful when we conquer something we thought we’d never be able to do? I am very grateful for your blog and the encouragement it brings, so a big THANK YOU to you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Sharon! Dance is a great way to get some cardio in and have fun, too! And congrats on conquering that move! I’ve also felt proud when I finally got better at an exercise or could go to higher weights on a machine. The feeling of real accomplishment just can’t be beat, which must be why exercise is beneficial for mental health. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m a walker and I do some back exercises. Both just make me feel better because I’m doing something good for myself. Also, I take my Mom, who has dementia, and her dog on walks with me. I its one of the ways that helps her with the depression that often accompanies dementia. How are you doing? I’ve been absent from blogging and reading while working in the camps and on the mission trip, but you all haven’t been far from my thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad to hear that you and your mother are still going on walks. It’s also great that you’re doing back exercises; everyone I know seems to have “back issues” in some form. I have been doing well; just wish summer wasn’t flying by, but then again, I do love fall. I hope you had a great time! I’ve enjoyed the posts you’ve made about the trip so far.

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  7. Thanks for sharing this, Lily. I find I get my best inspiration when I’m walking. Long distance- not just pottering round the shops! But to be honest , I’ve never been that keen on exercising! I do find Pilates helpful; it’s so slow, measured and intentional, I can’t disappear down a rabbit warren of thoughts and niggles while I’m in mid movement or I’d forget to breathe!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for sharing this, Lily! With depression, anxiety, and autoimmune illness, I’ve found running, biking, and swimming to be my favorite forms of stress release. Focusing on my breathing and living in the present moment gives me perspective on things I struggle with daily!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s awesome, Theresa! I love that you used the phrase “living in the present moment.” A lot of the negative thoughts in our heads pertain to the future or the past. Exercise is like a physical expression of the “mindfulness” idea that’s trending lately.

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  9. Great post.
    It doesn’t actually have to be hard exercise for fully able-bodied people, either. If you think of yoga or tai chi or similar exercises that require you to focus your mind on moving in a certain way or focus on posture etc., these also help to cleanse your mind. For me, too, exercise is the best way to deal with stress and an over-active mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Exercise is the most effective way to deal with my major depression and PTSD. It works better than any medication I have tried. However, it is not the easiest method. Sometimes, when I am in the mist of a depressive episode getting out and exercising feels like an insurmountable task.

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  11. Exercise is the only way that I can get outside of my own head! Many people see this as strange but it is so lovely to come across someone who experiences a similar feeling! When I run, all I can think about is what is going on around me and how to stay safe, nothing more and nothing less.. I am so grateful for that opportunity!

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  12. I love to go for a fast-paced walk and do yoga. It’s nothing fancy and I don’t excercise as much as I want to or should. But you are right excercise helps shift the focus of those negative thoughts. Some days I have to remind myself to “do” rather than to “think”. Thinking is good, but it’s so easy for me to get into negative thought patterns.

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