Running For Depression, Not From It—Insights from the Making of CODEX

Even when it’s the last thing she wants to do, Nita Sweeney has taught herself to exercise every day.

She might not exercise for long before calling it quits, but no matter what, she makes herself move. And the benefits to her mental health have been more than worth it.

In the book Depression Hates a Moving Target, Sweeney explores her personal experience with depression and anxiety and the ways in which exercise has helped.

It’s not a cure for anxiety or depression, but it’s definitely a treatment—one that’s helped Sweeney forgo several prescription medications that she was dependent on for years.

Richard Jacobs shares insights from Sweeney’s book and his discussions with her, reminding listeners that even a few minutes of exercise each day can pull us out of our heads, and force us to focus on the physical sensations in our bodies.

Learn more about CODEX for Anxiety and Depression, and contribute to the cause at

Hello, this is Richard Jacobs, the executive director of the finding genius foundation. I'm also the host of the finding genius podcast, as promised. And as usual, I'm taking you with me on the journey as we developed the anxiety and depression Codex, I'm also starting to refer to it as a AI powered coach.

I'm learning as we go, you know, I'm learning as I learned, and as I interview people, professionals and people that have had, and have anxiety and depression and PTSD, etc. So these podcasts, these audios are going to act as a diary of my journey. And it's obviously going to be parts of the Codex itself. As I'm recording these interviews. As I'm learning, I want to share this with you immediately, I don't want you to have to wait until the entire project is done. And the AI coaches ready, I'd like you to start getting actionable useful information right now. So that's the point of this series.

Today, I interviewed a wonderful woman named Nita Sweeney and ita Nita Sweeney, She's the author of a book called depression hates a moving target. And Nita told me that, you know, for most of her life, she battled and battles with depression, and anxiety and a whole host of other issues. So what I found really interesting from talking to her is that by running, she's found a way to really mitigate and reduce the difficulty she faces on an everyday basis with, you know, anxiety and depression and stress. It's not a cure, she pointed that out, it helped her get off, I believe she was on about six medications, she's down to one.

I mean, it's really changed her life for the better, it's brought her back from the brink, many times. And some of the interesting things I found is that, even though she doesn't want to exercise a lot of the time, she still does it, she had to turn it into a real habit for herself, and that, that helps her get moving. And she also admitted to me, there's days where, you know, she'll put on her, you know, running clothes, and not get very far, but she'll still at least start the process. And she may get, you know, a few blocks, she may get a quarter mile just depends. But she goes, rain, shine, hot, cold, etc.

She said is kind of funny. She said, you know what happens to runners, when it gets hot, they get hot. And when it gets cold, they get cold. And when it rains, they get wet. So I thought this was a very honest, raw way of looking at things, as she does combine other things that help her meditation, mindfulness, you know, diet, of course, very, incredibly important. But exercise has had, again, a profound effect, not only on our health, but on her mental health. And she referred to her mind as a trickster.

She said that, you know, sometimes her mind will say to her, you know, you're gonna hurt yourself, and then you're gonna gain all this weight, and no one's gonna want to talk to you, or you're a failure, or, you know, come on, that's all you can do is run a quarter mile, I mean, give me a break, you suck, you'll never be a runner, you'll never do this, you'll never do that. So there's a lot of negative self talk and voices in her head that she has to battle with. But the exercise, you know, really helps her Now I'm not saying to you go running. I'm not saying don't go running. But consider exercise.

It could be Tai Chi, it could be running, it could be rowing, it could be walking. I mean, it could be anything. But look back into your own life and see what exercise you've done in the past, you may not have done any, but a lot of people have when they were younger. And again, you're not looking to become an athlete here. But you're looking to help your mindset mitigate, you know, what you or a loved one is facing. And exercise can be an incredibly powerful, powerful thing. I've used exercise many times to help myself and my wife has and you know, people I know, I think there's a couple reasons why it's so helpful is one, you're really ramping up your body and you're getting literally your juices flowing, your blood flowing.

You're not just sitting there and ruminating, you kind of focused externally on how you feeling, you know, I'm getting tired, I have to make sure I breathe regularly in order to exercise, you know, I have to get my muscles moving. I have to pay attention to what I'm doing at least somewhat. Otherwise, I'm not going to exercise very well or I may hurt myself. So the fact that exercising takes you out of your mindset and lets you focus on kind of external type of things, you know, is it sunny out? Is it warm? Is it cold? Are you going up a hill? You know, how are your shoes feeling how your clothes feeling? What's your heart rate light?

Are you sweating exercise from what I've seen really can take my mind off of whatever's bothering me, at least for the time I'm exercising, which is a big relief. And when I'm done, I usually feel a lot calmer and better and more settled. And I can think more clearly. So I don't know what your personal experiences with exercise and if you're way out of shape. I understand it's not easy, it's tiring. And it's not an easy thing to do. You know, a bunch of years ago, I believe when I was about 36 years old. I was probably in the worst shape of my life. And I wanted to exercise but I was afraid to and ice And I wrote down every reason I could think of why I wasn't exercising. And I told myself, I'm not going to share this with anybody. I mean, I can tell you now, because it's okay. And I do exercise pretty regularly now. But some of the things I wrote is I don't want to, you know, pull a muscle and not be able to function or walk or sit or stand or whatever it may be, for weeks at a time, I'm afraid of sweating, and being uncomfortable. I'm afraid that, you know, I'm going to do it for a week or two, and then I'm going to give up and kind of get nowhere, I'm afraid if I go to the gym, and I work with a trainer that people will say, oh, you're wasting money.

Why are you working with a trainer just workout on your own, I'm afraid that a trainer will say like, boy, you're in really bad shape. I'm afraid that it won't work. And I won't lose weight, and I won't feel better. I'm afraid, I'm afraid. I'm afraid I had a dozen maybe more reasons why I was afraid to exercise. And when I confronted it, and I looked at these reasons, I was like, wow, there's a lot of psychological stuff going on here. That's preventing me from doing this. But it helped to do it. And it allowed me to overcome and to start working out. And I started real slow, it took a long time to get back into any sense of shape. And since that time, 10 years later, now, I'm 46, there have been times where I stopped exercise for, you know, a period of six months, or at one point even a year. And getting back was even harder. You know, and I know, listeners understand this, you know, the older you are, the harder it is to get back on that horse. But you must do it. You must, it doesn't matter how old you are. I'm sure you've seen I've seen people in their 70s and 80s that are weightlifting, or working out and are in great shape. And I've seen people in their 40s and 50s that are three quarters dead. And their potatoes, they couch potatoes, they do nothing.

They in horrible shape, maybe they can't even breathe well. And they're really headed for destruction. So what I've learned is that health is a choice. It's a choice that you and I have to make every day of our lives. Are we going to work out today? Or are we going to say, yeah, I'll leave for tomorrow, I'm tired, I don't feel well. I don't want to, I'm busy, etc. But we all have these choices. And we got to make this choice every single day, am I going to be in the future a healthy 60 70 80 year old or am I going to be in a wheelchair and a mess and have all kinds of health problems and maybe not even make it to 60 maybe not make it to 70 or 80 I realised that is the choice before me that is the choice before all of us. I just wanted to tell you again, what I got from speaking to Nita Sweeney, and again, her book is depression hates a moving target, and appears avail be available wherever books are sold. So I encourage you to give a listen. And if you'd like also, the interview I did with her is attached here, so you can listen to that as well. And I hope what I've gone over with you today is inspirational, and helps you I believe everyone is capable of improving their mental and physical health. No matter where you start from, you may not get 100% all the way.

But you can certainly improve your lot, and your thoughts and your life and your relationships. And that's the goal of this entire project. And now at the end, I always have to make a call to action because I need your help. I can't fund this thing myself solely, it's going to be about $500,000, I asked you to go to finding genius And if you want to read more about the project, and I asked you to donate 20 bucks, 50 bucks, 100 bucks, whatever you can do, obviously, the more the better.

I'm not taking a salary from this 100% Actually, I would say probably 130% of this is going towards working on the anxiety and depression and stress. Why do I say 130% because I'm also funding this out of my own pocket. But again, I can't do it alone. That's why I need your help. But this is not some bloated organisation. We are a relatively new kid on the block, but I'm putting the work in as you can hear in this podcast and others. I'm funding it I'm putting my money where my mouth is I'm putting my mouth where the mouth is and I need your help. So please visit finding genius and chip in what you can. Thank you very much

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