For some people, the thought of stepping inside a gym feels utterly foreign, never mind the idea that sweating buckets and the muscle soreness (DOMS) the next day will make you happier. If exercise is not a big part of your life, then you probably haven't considered that exercise can make you happier. Well, it’s true, it could.
Physical activity of all sorts does impact on your mood. It’s not just about the endorphin rush either, although those do feel good! Hold on tight, and we’ll give you the rundown of all the ways exercise can help to improve your happiness levels.
Altered State of Mind
When you exercise, you literally change your brain chemistry. Your brain and pancreas start producing several hormones. Included among these hormones are endorphins, beta-endorphins, and beta-lipotrophin. These hormones all positively affect mood. They interact with the same pathways in your brain as opioids do. This means you feel a rush, your sensitivity to pain decreases and your heart rate and respiration calms. You get all the good feelings with none of the danger and addiction.
Add to this the fact that when you exercise, your brain starts to grow new cells. These cells are found in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that controls your mood. It’s thought that the extra activity in this area of your brain is partly responsible for the mood-boosting effect of exercise.
Reduced Feelings of Anxiety
Feelings of anxiety and stress are caused by high levels of a hormone called cortisol. When you exercise, your body naturally produces cortisol; exercise is, after all, hard work and places a stress on the body. This might sound like it’s a bad thing, but it could turn out to have long term positive effects.
People who exercise have lower resting levels of cortisol than those who don’t. The idea is that your body learns how to deal with cortisol. It gets to practice every time you exercise. This means that when life gets you stressed, your body is well practised at dealing with it.
Feelings of confidence and general levels of happiness are linked. I’m sure you can think of examples from your own life. Just think of a time when you felt confident in your abilities and then think about your general mood at the time.
When you exercise, it can have a significant impact on your personal confidence. For some, this can come, in part, from reaching a healthy weight, but that is not the main reason. Overcoming a challenge or obstacle is an excellent way to build confidence.
Exercise presents both a mental and physical challenge. Finishing a challenging workout, or even just getting up and moving can represent an obstacle overcome and an achievement. It is from this that your confidence grows.
Bigger Boost From Socialising
We’ve already outlined some of the ways that exercise can change your brain chemistry. These changes in your brain have more effects than just a temporary mood boost. They also make you more receptive to social interactions.
Time spent with friends and family is more rewarding when it also involves exercise. Healthy relationships are the foundation of long lasting happiness. So, anything that helps you build these relationships will also lay the foundations for future happiness.
The Great Outdoor Effect
Exercising outdoors can have similar effects on your state of mind as meditating. Getting your body moving while outside can help to quiet your mind. The results can be quite profound and lasting. If you’ve tried meditation but didn’t have the patience for it, then exercising outside is another way to achieve the same end goal.
Everything is harder if you aren’t getting enough sleep. It can feel like the world is against you, which makes feeling happy an impossible task. There is a clear link between exercise and better sleep. There are a couple of crucial reasons for this. First is that, if you are physically tired rest comes more easily.
Start On Your Path To Increasing Happiness
The good news is that you don’t have to be running marathons to see these effects. In fact, 10 minutes of moderate exercise is all it takes. Once or twice a week is when you start to see positive outcomes. I can’t think of anything else, where 10 minutes of effort gets you so many benefits.