Dan Lippmann LCSW. Practical, Sustainable Happiness

“I don’t feel like exercising!” How to Change Your Mood and Start Moving

If you’re dealing with depression or anxiety, you’re likely to cringe if someone tells you that exercise can make you feel better. That’s totally understandable. The last thing most people feel like doing when coping with depression or anxiety is moving their body. However, there’s no denying the latest research findings on the link between depression, anxiety, and exercise:

Exercise not only eases symptoms of depression and anxiety – it helps keep anxiety and depression from returning once you’re feeling better.

I admit, though, that exercise is a hard sell — not only to my clients who have depression and anxiety, but to those with other emotional and physical health concerns. Despite the promise of feeling better, most of my clients still resist exercising. That is, until I teach them how to use the Mood Switch to change their negative thinking. Here’s how I helped my client, Julie, overcome her resistance to exercising.

First, I had her use my Mood Switch form to list all of her negative thoughts about exercise. Her thoughts included:

I don’t have time.

Exercise hurts.

I hate being hot and sweaty.

I’d rather do fun things.

Then I helped her construct positive, helpful responses to counteract or “talk back” to each negative thought. She wrote the following Helpful Responses on her Mood Switch form:

I can find a half-hour in my schedule three times a week to do a workout DVD at home.

A personal trainer can help me pick an exercise DVD that doesn’t hurt.

Being hot and sweaty is temporary. I can deal with it for a half-hour and just take a shower afterwards.

If I get in shape, I’ll be able to do more fun activities that involve movement.


After counteracting all of her negative thoughts with Helpful Responses (she actually had a total of 11 negative thoughts which she responded to), I had her read her Helpful Responses aloud every day for a week. When she came to see me again, she had already started exercising and was feeling better physically and emotionally. She told me that her Mood Switch work had led to a surprising discovery — mind power, not willpower, was the key to getting her body moving.

If you’re dealing with depression or anxiety, but can’t get motivated to start moving — don’t give up!

  • Take a few minutes to list your negative thoughts about exercising.
  • Then “talk back” to each negative thought, and write your responses down.
  • Finally, read your helpful responses aloud every day for a week.

Let me know what you learn from this “exercise.” You can leave a comment below or email me via the Contact page. I’ll be writing about additional techniques for overcoming exercise resistance in future blog posts.

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