I participated in a physical Tabata class this week and as I struggled through the intense workout, I realized this concept could be helpful for anyone struggling with symptoms of depression. Not the physically grueling part but the 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off concept.
Tabata encourages a series of challenging movements to be done one at a time, each for 20 seconds and then a short rest for 10 seconds. In our mind, it feels like we could do anything for 20 seconds-right?
When struggling with a mood disorder such as depression there are moments and sometimes days that can feel overwhelming. Science tells us that if we can change our activity we can change our brain but it is so difficult for someone inside a depressive episode to push through and transition to some type of an activity that takes mental or physical energy. This is where Mental Tabata could be helpful. 20 seconds on 10 seconds off. Knowing the commitment is minimal and the time is short might benefit someone who does not feel like they could go on a 20 minute walk around the block, however, they might be able to commit to walking around the house for 20 seconds. Below I have listed eight simple 20 second activities to encourage a change in brain activity.
These simple exercises have the potential to increase mood stimulating endorphins and change neural pathways in the brain for a more positive outlook along with increased energy, which in turn, can change the length and duration of the depressed mood.
At first it might seem grueling and difficult to begin but if put into practice as a routine, it will become easier to push through the heaviness to get started. Getting started is the hard part. Pick an activity from the list below. Once you commit and begin that first 20 seconds you are on your way!
Mental Tabata - 20 seconds on; 10 seconds off; 8 sets
Pick one and repeat 8 times or try each one!
- Walk around the house or yard
- Belly Breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) - inhale to a count of 3; hold for 3 and exhale for 4
- Laugh - even if it is forced
- Skip (Oh come on! Yes, you can!)
- Say or write what you are grateful for
- Stretch those tight muscles
- Positive self-talk (say out loud). Say what you know is true about yourself such as, “I will get through this.” Or “I am strong. “I want (blank).” I will (blank). “I am loved. “
- Smile - Yes! Practicing or even faking a smile can rewire your brain and create positive pathways.