Happiness Habits – Day 16: Happiness and Exercise
When you’re having a bad day or are feeling down, the best way to increase your happiness may be to exercise. Research has demonstrated strong links between exercise and an uplift in mood and well-being. Give it a try. Go for a 30 minute brisk walk whenever you’re feeling depressed and unhappy. You’ll notice your mood starting to increase throughout the walk. When you get back, you may notice that you’re feeling, if not happier, less down.
The Physical Component
The increase of happiness and wellbeing after exercise is caused by two different mechanisms in our body. The first is that exercise causes the release of brain chemicals like endorphins and other mood enhancers. It happens just a few minutes after you work out and the effect can last for a good 12 hours. The second part is that exercise also helps reduce the levels of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline in the body – it actually uses them up, since you’re taking action in response to a perceived “threat” (whatever you’re stressed about). That means you’ll instantly feel less stressed. That one-two punch can have a powerful effect on how you feel.
Make it a Habit
For best results, you want to exercise a few times per week. Take some time during your lunch break to go for a walk, or for a quick workout in before you head to work in the morning. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you start moving around and get that blood pumping. Pick activities you enjoy that you will stick with.
In addition to the everyday mood booster you get from exercising regularly, there are quite a few additional long term benefits. Exercise is good for your health and you will start to get fitter and even slimmer and more toned if you stick with it. This in turn will improve how you feel and how you feel about yourself. That added confidence can be a great additional mood booster.
For even better results, try to get as much exercise as you can outside. Fresh air and sunshine add to a feeling of wellbeing. Exercise in nature, like a park, a beach (oh, that salt air! Yum!), or just around some grass and trees, improve mood and impart calm. Come up with some simple things you can start doing right now. Maybe it’s going for a walk each afternoon. Maybe it’s taking up jogging. Maybe it’s signing up for a yoga or Pilate’s class at your local community center, or maybe it’s joining a basketball team. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do as long as you make it a goal to get more active and move around. Switch it up and plan a group hike for the weekend, or dust off your bike. There’s a lot of fun ways to move around and enjoy the world around you.