This is your Brain on Friendship.

 

For the New Year, I did something pretty non-traditional. I cancelled my gym membership. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s cancelled. The gym I was using didn’t work for me, it didn’t work for my family. It was outrageously expensive and I was stuck in a rut, doing the same workout daily. I made the plunge, and have been successfully working out in my home gym. I have no excuses anymore.

 

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I do have a lingering fear that my success will derail without my gym membership. I try to stay motivated, but I no longer have classes, trainers, or exercise groups. Because of this, I was especially interested when an old trainer of mine reached out on social media. He had noticed my 150 pound weight loss, and congratulated me. He asked what I was doing for training these days, and offered to meet up with me for a refresher.

 

I put if off for a few weeks. I’m still super self conscious and high anxiety. I hate going new places, so I knew I’d be out of my element at his gym (where I’ve never been before.) I finally gave in this week, and decided to be a gym buddy this morning.

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First of all, reconnecting with an old friend is a great feeling! Depression is an isolating disease, and being isolated makes depression worse. It’s terrible cycle where you’re stuck in a hole and digging deeper. Spending time with friends releases the hormone oxytocin, which in turn doses you with dopamine and serotonin. Combining socialization with physical activity will up the ante. Exercise releases similar brain chemicals that lift your mood. For the socially awkward, like me, it also relieves the pressure of a face to face conversation. There are things to do, activities to focus on, and natural ice breakers.

 

After I got over the hurdle of anticipation, I had a really great morning. 700 calories and 90 minutes later, I physically feel great. It was a nice boost of self confidence to have someone see the change I’ve made, and get excited about my journey. I was definitely happy exchanging stories about our kids, what we’ve been up to and how much we’ve changed. Driving home I felt the best I have in weeks.

 

As I drove, I started to think about my “highs” lately, and they all center around my relationships. Most excitedly is my niece to be. Even just seeing her on the ultrasound screen made my heart skip a beat, so feeling her kick made me cry. It was the smallest bit of affection, but the contact made me feel so connected with her! Her mama is always sending me positive texts. She tells me about the baby kicking, or her thoughts about my blog posts. When I get to see her in person, her hugs work some kind of hormonal magic. She makes me feel so loved, so safe, so warm. My husband is constantly pulling me out of a funk. He’s learning so many tips and tricks. He’s really trying to understand mental illness and help me. Even just planning our February vacation with my mom sets off little burst of happiness. I’m looking forward to spending time with her, and I know the kids are too.

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Socialization is such an important part of health- mental and physical. It’s not easy when the depression pulls you under, but the right friends will always throw you a life preserver. It’s amazing what the human body can do, and how it can provide us with natural antidepressants. We just have to stimulate our brains the right way! Call a friend today. Lift your mood. Make today a great day!

 

With happy hearts (and great friends,)

Kate and the Kids.

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