1. Seven Habits of Happy People – Focusing on Exercise

    March 6, 2014

    Seven Habits of Happy People – Focusing on Exercise

    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

     


  2. Research Quantifies Benefits of Exercise Against Depression

    June 16, 2013

    exercise against depression

    by Jessica Josh

     

    We all heard that: exercise to avoid or alleviate depression. For years, mental healthcare providers have universally agreed on the merits of exercise as complimentary therapy for depression. But no clinical research has been performed in order to quantify its power over mental illness. Until now.

     

    In the May issue of the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, psychiatrists from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas reported unprecedented research findings on benefits of physical activity for treating clinical depression, known in medical parlance as major depressive disorder (MDD).

     

    “Despite the substantial evidence supporting the use of exercise in the treatment of MDD, previous studies have not provided a clear indication of the proper dose of exercise needed to elicit an antidepressant effect,” wrote authors Chad Rethorst, PhD, and Madhukar Trivedi, MD.

     

    According to World Health Organisation, depression afflicts around 350 million people worldwide, with 9 million adults in the US alone suffering from clinical depression.

     

    Specific guidance

     

    Reviewing findings from existing randomised trials, the authors found that exercise is indeed an effective antidepressant, either by itself or in conjunction with drugs and psychotherapy, among other treatments. These trials also suggest that MDD patients respond optimally to aerobic exercise and, to an extent, resistance training.

     

    Based on statistical results of their study, Rethorst and Trivedi recommend depression patients to aim for 50 to 85 percent of their HRmax (maximum heart rate) when performing aerobic activities. They also prescribed weight training at 80 percent of 1-RM (repetition maximum); three sets of eight repetitions involving both lower- and upper-body muscle groups are adequate.

     

    All in all, MDD sufferers should clock in three to five exercise sessions weekly, with each session lasting 45-60 minutes. However, Rethorst and Trivedi warned that measurable health benefits can manifest within four weeks of starting the regimen.

     

    Granted, clinical psychologists argue that exercise of any frequency and intensity is better than doing nothing at all. Even in the study by Trivedi and Rethorst 15 percent of patients did not finish the physical activity regimens required by the trials. So, why does it work? Physical exercise increases the rate at which serotonin (aka “hormone of happiness”) is generated by the brain, thus causing the increase in release and synthesis of serotonin.

     

     

    Stubborn depression

     

    Alas, even the best treatments may prove futile against depression. Sometimes other conditions, can aggravate it. Bipolar disorder, thyroid disorders, cardiovascular ailment, and anemia have all been known to make depression resistant to treatment.

     

    Psychiatrists may prescribe, in addition to antidepressants, medications indicated for other mental illnesses, e.g. mood stabilizers, stimulants, and antipsychotics. They may also request a cytochrome P450 genotyping test, which tells if the patient can efficiently metabolize a drug.

     

    Clinical psychologists are essential participants in the treatment of depression. Psychodynamic treatment, a relatively drastic kind of psychotherapy, helps the sufferer dig up deep-seated beliefs and feelings that contribute to the depression. This method obviously takes time but, unlike medication, it arms the patient with tools to avoid depression in the future.

     

    It is rarely used nowadays, but if worse comes to worst, psychiatrists may proffer options like transcranial magnetic stimulation and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), both of which make use of electric currents.

     

    In the former, a large coil builds magnetic fields that affect the mood-controlling parts of the brain. ECT, on the other hand, offers stopgap relief from severe depression by practically passing electricity through the brain; patients experience a seizure each time.

     

    Author Bio: Jessica Josh is an Australian freelance writer and blogger.  Since 2007 she has been writing about health and nutrition and fitness, and articles for  Northshore Health & Fitness

     Image Credit: Mark Sebastian