How to Overcome Down Phases with Sport and Strategies

Did you know that engaging in any form of physical activity can be as effective as antidepressant medication?

We’ve all experienced those days, weeks, or even just hours where everything feels overwhelming and empty. When nothing seems to go your way, it’s easy to end up stuck in bed, cursing the world, and sinking deeper into a vicious cycle of inactivity and despair. In this post, I want to share my strategies to break free from this cycle and harness the power of light exercise  to improve your mood and overall well-being. Even if I don’t personally suffer from depression, I believe and hope that these strategies will help you if you’re struggling with similar challenges.

Basic Strategy

Having a strategy is essential in most life situations, and it can be particularly beneficial when trying to improve your mental health. Here is mine, right from the beginning

Step 1: Establish a Routine

Start by incorporating some form of light sport routine into your life, step by step. It doesn’t have to be anything big; just something you commit to doing every day at the same time. If you struggle with full workouts, begin with exercises that are manageable regardless of your physical condition. Choose activities that aren’t too hard but still offer some challenge.

Step 2: Laddering

I call this step “laddering” because, just like climbing a ladder, you can always increase or optimize your exercise routine. Watch yourself and take notes about what you can do better and try to implement that the next time you exercise. Whether it’s adding an extra minute to your walk or trying a slightly more challenging yoga pose, incremental improvements can lead to significant progress over time.

Step 3: Integrate Laddering and Optimizing into Daily Life

Incorporate the principles of laddering and optimizing into your daily routine. Each morning, take a moment to think about what you can do better today than you did yesterday. Over time, you’ll start to notice changes in your behavior. For example, if you struggle to keep your home clean, don’t start with a massive cleanup. Begin by picking up a few things and gradually increase your efforts. Laddering takes time, but it creates lasting change because you’re adopting new behaviors instead of constantly battling big challenges.

Step 4: Backing Up Your Everyday Laddering with Your Achievements in Exercise

Backing up your everyday laddering with your achievements in exercise is crucial. Sport is the easiest form of telling your mind you are capable of more than it tells you. The mind often works against you in nearly every sport. Physical reactions like cramps or exhaustion are the only real indicators that you have reached a limit. Sport becomes a form of communication between you and that devil in your head, and every extra minute you walk, every squat, and every push-up is a defiant “fuck you” to that negative voice.

In this step, I want you to connect your sports achievements with situations in your everyday life. For instance, if you struggle to speak with strangers, remember the last time you went walking. Your mind might have told you that you were tired, but you pushed through and did that extra lap without collapsing. You defeated those downing thoughts. Speaking with strangers is just another artificial limit your mind imposes on you. By recalling your triumphs in physical activity, you can draw parallels to other challenges, reinforcing the belief that you can overcome obstacles both mentally and physically. This mindset shift helps you see that many of the barriers you face are simply constructs of your mind, and you have the strength to surpass them.

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Scientific Foundations

Physical activity plays a critical role in reinforcing the positive impacts of laddering and optimizing your daily life. It triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters, which interact with receptors in the brain to reduce the perception of pain and generate a positive feeling, similar to that of morphine.

Additionally, exercise boosts the production of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters essential for mood regulation. Numerous studies have shown that regular physical activity can lead to significant improvements in symptoms of depression and anxiety. By understanding the scientific basis behind how exercise enhances your mood, you can further appreciate the powerful connection between your physical achievements and your mental resilience, solidifying the progress you make in both areas.

Light Sports That Can help to start

Following the scientific foundations of how exercise benefits your mind and body, here are some gentle yet impactful activities to consider:

  1. Yoga and Stretching: Yoga combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. It can enhance flexibility, reduce stress, and promote relaxation.
  2. Walking: Simple and accessible, walking allows you to enjoy fresh air and sunlight, which can be incredibly uplifting. Aim for a brisk walk to get your heart rate up slightly.
  3. Swimming: The soothing properties of water combined with the gentle resistance of swimming can be both refreshing and therapeutic.
  4. Cycling: This low-impact exercise is great for cardiovascular health and can be a fun way to explore your surroundings.

By incorporating these light sports into your routine, you can harness the benefits of physical activity to further support your mental health and reinforce the progress made through your laddering strategies.

More Tips that can help you

Starting any new routine can be challenging, especially when you’re feeling low. I listed some tips for you that helped me:

  • Set Realistic Goals: Begin with small, achievable goals, such as a 10-minute walk around the block. Like already mentioned, the goal is not to achieve everything directly. The goal is to build long lasting behaviors ! 
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how you feel during and after exercise. It’s important to choose activities that you enjoy and that make you feel good but also challenge you.
  • The most important part in this whole strategie is to be consequently. Not reaching a goal you set for yourself is no problem at all as long as you have tried

Sometimes, you feel like you just don’t have the strength to do anything. In those moments, it’s up to you to decide if you will win today against your mind.

Personal Stories and Experiences

A year ago, I was overweight and nothing had worked out the way I wanted. All in all, you could say I just fell into a hole and everything seemed hopeless. One day, I had enough and thought about how I could become a better version of myself. I realized that all those phases of intense motivation where I went to the gym six times a week meant nothing if I stopped after a few months. So, I thought about what I could do sustainably and started jogging.

In the beginning, I could only manage a kilometer, but with consistent laddering and optimizing, I reached my first half marathon in just two months. After this significant achievement, I started to implement the laddering strategy in every aspect of my life. Now, I don’t drink any alcohol anymore, I’ve lost 20 kg, and I can do push-ups, pull-ups, and run marathons for fun. With a new positive attitude towards life, new goals started to seem as reachable as I once thought they were unattainable.

This journey taught me that small, consistent steps can lead to incredible transformations, and I hope my experience can inspire you to believe in the power of light exercise and incremental improvements.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to see the benefits of light exercise on mood?

The mood-enhancing effects of light exercise can be felt immediately, but significant improvements are typically seen within a few weeks of consistent activity. Be patient and focus on the journey rather than immediate results.

Can light exercise really make a difference in my mental health?

Yes, even light exercise can trigger the release of endorphins and other mood-boosting chemicals. The important thing is to stay active regularly to see sustained benefits.

What if I don’t enjoy any form of exercise?

Try different activities until you find something you enjoy, like dancing, hiking, or even gardening. The key is to stay active in a way that feels fun and engaging to you. Exercise one of the most natural things we do, through trial and error you will find your passion !

How can I stay motivated to exercise regularly?

Setting realistic goals, tracking your progress, and reminding yourself of the mental health benefits can help maintain motivation. . Remember that even a short walk or light activity is better than nothing, and consistency is key.


If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stuck, remember that every small step counts. Light exercise can be a powerful tool in your mental health toolkit, helping to break the cycle of inactivity and despair. It’s okay to seek help and to take things one day at a time.

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By incorporating light sports into your routine, you can start to experience the positive impact on your mood and overall well-being. Give it a try and see how these strategies work for you. When you start today, you will see the results and experience a similar positive shift in your life with this strategy. Remember, you’re not alone, and Strategy is the Key!

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Sports with Friends

Now, let’s gather some friends for a light game of basketball to clear your mind and boost your mood.




Harvard Health Publishing:



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