While it’s true that working out may boost your mood in the short term, you may be surprised to learn that it can also improve your general happiness over time. Here are 10 ways to exercise your way to happiness. If you follow these tips, you may just find yourself happier than ever!
Exercise & Happiness
Researchers have found that exercise makes us feel better. In one study, researchers had participants cycle for 30 minutes and then answer questions about their happiness. They had other participants sit quietly for that same amount of time before answering questions about their happiness. Although both groups felt more positive after exercising, those who exercised reported a significantly higher level of enjoyment than those who didn’t work out.
What Is Happiness?
Some philosophers define happiness as pleasure—so, in theory, exercise should help you achieve it. However, research suggests that exercising isn’t necessarily linked with feeling happy; rather, people who work out on a regular basis tend to have higher levels of positive mood than those who don’t. In other words, exercise can potentially lead to a high similar to what you might feel after eating chocolate or drinking wine—except that it won’t make you hungover and tired. What’s more, many studies suggest that working out makes us happier because it leads us to eat healthier foods and sleep better—both of which are crucial for our overall well-being. And exercise may be one way (out of many) to find a sense of purpose in life.
Regular Exercise Boosts Serotonin Levels
Serotonin often called the happy hormone because of its ability to boost mood and alleviate depression, is a neurotransmitter that helps us relax and sleep at night. Increased serotonin levels are directly linked with improved mood, lower stress levels, better concentration, sounder sleep patterns, improved appetite control, and much more.
Know the Benefits of Exercise
Daily exercise does much more than just burn calories. Exercise is important for your overall health. Exercise boosts your immunity and may help you feel better overall. But it’s not always clear why exercise gives you a mental boost. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers say that physical activity can make people feel better by changing how their brains respond to rewards and stress, which can make them happier. The chemical messenger serotonin and the feel-good hormones endorphins are released during excitement and pleasure are both raised by physical activity.
Find an Exercises You Enjoy
It’s not a secret that exercise can help make you feel better, but it’s important to find an activity you actually enjoy doing. Even if you are in great shape and regularly active, you may find yourself dreading going for a run every morning or struggling through another class at a gym. If that’s the case, try something new. Walk around your neighborhood instead of taking public transportation; trade tennis for racquetball; go ice skating with friends. Mix up your routine and look for things that are just as healthy but more fun than what you normally do—and set aside some time each week just for those activities. You might be surprised how much better exercise makes you feel and how quickly those feelings translate into positive emotions.
Start Small, Stay Consistent
There’s an overwhelming amount of research that indicates exercise has a positive impact on our mental health and helps us deal with stress. So, you should exercise every day.If you have just 10 minutes or even more time to exercise, it will make a difference in your happiness levels. Remember, consistency is key!
Don’t Overdo It – Rest Too!
Too much exercise can leave you feeling burned out and fatigued. If you’re pushing your body too hard, scale back a bit until you start feeling like yourself again. You should also rest as often as possible and stay hydrated during physical activity (water is fine in small doses). Don’t overdo it.
Keep Track of Your Progress
Remember that feeling of dread when you knew you had to go for a run? Who wants to go outside, get all sweaty and gross—and have no one know about it? These days, we’re more than willing to share our every move online. Consider logging your workout sessions on an app and sharing them with friends or followers. Not only will tracking your progress keep you motivated, but it will also help inspire others in their fitness journeys as well.
Share your Success with Others
If you want to be happier, take your happiness out of hiding. After all, it’s hard for others to notice how happy you are if they can’t see it! When you do things that will improve your life—especially when they revolve around exercise—it’s important to share them with other people so that they know how awesomely happy and successful you are.
Build on This New Happiness Habit
If you want to start a new habit, it’s best to choose one that builds on something you already do. So if you don’t currently exercise, look for ways you can make your daily life more active and athletic. For example, find ways to add more walking or running throughout your day. Park farther away at work or when shopping and consider taking stairs instead of elevators. You could also try biking or hiking instead of driving when possible.
Additional Resource: Happiness Starts With You Course
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