by Michelle Blessing
(This article is a follow up to “7 Habits of Happy People“)
We all know exercise benefits us in the physical sense – it improves our health and extends our life expectancy. But many people don’t realize the benefits exercise has for your mental well-being; exercise improves brain function, improves mood and decreases the incidence of depression. Still not convinced about the benefits exercise can have on your happiness and well-being? Read on…..
Many research studies have been published regarding the connection between exercise and happiness. Most of the studies have discussed the link between improved mood and happiness with exercising. Although the link is not definitive (some studies state that people who are happier are more inclined to exercise), there is proof that being active and exercising can and does improve your mood. Some researchers have cited the release of endorphins during exercise as causing the improvement in mood, while others believe challenging the mind and body creates a feeling of satisfaction that leads to increased mood and happiness.
However, as discussed in the post regarding caring, it can be difficult to find the time (and the energy) to exercise on a regular basis. Take it from someone one who has been there – I was notorious for finding every excuse in the book not to exercise. Here are some examples of my excuses – the dishes need to be done, my favorite show is on TV, I feel guilty spending time away from my kids….on and on the list went. I wasn’t exercising, and clearly, my mood reflected that. I soon discovered that in order to be the best version of myself, I needed to make the time to take care of myself.
Exercise is and should be an important part of your everyday life. Exercise has the ability to teach you things about yourself – what fulfills you and what you’re capable of. The art of practicing some form of exercise, whether it is aerobics, walking or yoga, allows you to get in touch with your body – and your mind. The key to success – and happiness- with exercise is not choosing something easy; it is important, however, to choose something you enjoy and something that will challenge you.
Exercise and becoming physically active is the first step in achieving some level of happiness. But there is truth in the idea of challenging yourself to accomplish goals or master something. It doesn’t matter what exercise you choose; the important component is to find your niche, settle in and work towards whatever it is you want to accomplish. Happiness will be the icing on that piece of cake.
For me, yoga is what fulfills me. It’s not just about the breathing or the stretching, the poses or the meditation; it’s about challenging my body to reach its potential. With every class I take, I try harder, I get stronger – and I find a deeper sense of happiness and satisfaction. For others, running is their passion; they find inner peace in pounding the pavement and pushing their body to the limit. It doesn’t matter what you choose, but you need to make a commitment. Make a commitment to exercise at least a few times per week. Start slow (and always check with your physician before starting a new exercise regimen); 20 minutes of exercise, 2 or 3 times a week is a good place to begin. With each exercise session, push yourself (within your limits) to progress towards your goals. Most importantly, focus on how the exercise makes you feel both physically and mentally. Appreciate how the activity impacts your body and your mind. When you are exercising, try to focus on only that; let other thoughts (about the kids, bills or dinner) leave your mind; instead, keep the concentration on your body and mind, especially reflecting on what you are capable of. By appreciating your body and your mind for what it can do, you not only push yourself on the path to happiness and positivity, you might even inspire others to do the same.
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jazz_defo/3529977647