Before anyone starts eye-rolling at the mere mention of the word exercise hear me out…
Exercise – in my humble opinion -is one of the biggest contributors to unlocking a healthy body & happy mind lifestyle.
It ticks plenty of boxes on the well-being scale (read: Improving well-being: the key to being happy?) and through continued commitment to it (even in bite-size chunks) you will reap happy results.
Sceptical? Thought you might be.
Allow me to explain 5 ways exercise makes you happy…
1. Exercise gives you a natural high and reduces stress
I feel a good proportion of us are aware of this by now, but it never hurts to reaffirm important key points and let’s face it, this point is science backed.
When we exercise we release endorphins – basically happy chemicals. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin or norepinephrine teach your body how better to respond to stressors which naturally make you feel good.
By regularly exercising you subject your body to low level forms of stress, which raise your heart rate and cause a burst of hormonal changes. Sounds unappealing granted, but it’s actually a good thing as your body is trained to get better at handling the other stresses life throws at us. Less overall stress makes us happier and healthier.
Plus exercise has been proven to help us sleep better at night – giving our bodies better time to recuperate, our minds the thorough rest they require and making us better equipped to handle whatever the day ahead may bring.
2. Exercise raises your self-esteem
Yes, exercise can change your body shape, which can contribute to a rise in body confidence. However, this ISN’T why I’m advocating exercise as a way to make you happy. To me, health and mental well-being are the key drivers for exercise – anything else is just a bonus or a by-product however you choose to see it.
That being said, through exercising we can often feel more competent, independent, stronger, we feel that we have more to give. This in turn leads to a boost in our level of self-esteem.
We then have that push or belief we require to drive our lives positively forward, be it in our relationships, our careers, our goals, our aspirations.
3. Exercise earns you a sense of achievement
If nothing else, the sense of ‘I can’t bloody believe I just did that!’ is ample enough reason to have a well-deserved smile on your face.
Be it running a distance you’ve not managed before, beating a personal best at anything, taking part in a class, competing in an event or swimming those few extra lengths – whatever… you did it! Well done you! Yes you are brilliant and deserve to be smug and well – happy with yourself!
Exercise wakes up the reward circuit of your brain, it humbles your inner-negative voice, it makes you challenge yourself. Ultimately you adopt a sense of well if I can do this, then I can do (insert name of slightly daunting or full-on scary challenge here) – you name it, you’re ready to take on the world (or at least your next class).
4. Exercise buys you ‘you’ time
After having children, it felt too easy to lose a sense of who I was. Exercising was my time. It wasn’t about the kids or the house or the other half, it was just about me doing something for me.
It’s time to burn off stress, to raise your energy levels, to gain some escape. Sometimes you just need to be alone, re-group and process – exercise gives you this.
That time to process is priceless. Some of my better ideas have come to me whilst exercising – it’s the lack of distraction that often brings clarity to things.
When you feel you’ve had the time you need, you’re happier and better placed to give time to others.
5. Exercise makes you connected
Regardless of whether you choose a solo-sport or a class full of people, exercise helps to make you feel connected.
When running through my village, I get to discover new areas I haven’t been through before. I get to say good morning to people I pass. When cycling through the forest or around the lake, I get to experience nature and feel at peace. Or when attending an exercise class I get to build new friendships, camaraderie and just the general inclusiveness of being around other people.
Exercise makes you feel less isolated. It gets you up and out. Having a good sense of your community, the area you inhabit and/or interactions with people help to lift our spirits and in turn our overall sense of happiness.
Something holding you back?
We often view exercise with negative associations – it’s not enjoyable, it’s too much effort, it’s too hard, Oh God do I have to?
Begin to view exercise with enthusiasm for what you will gain. It’s one of the most positive things you can do in your daily life. And the longer you stick at it the better the rewards get.
So go, put those trainers on or get that yoga mat out. Whether you walk a block, swim a length or climb a wall (wearing a harness obviously) – make a commitment to your overall well-being and happiness by allowing exercise to become a staple part of who you are!
Here are some other areas in which exercise can contribute to improving your overall well-being:
Do you exercise? Are there any other ways you’ve found it has helped to make you feel happier? What has your experience been? Any exercise wins you want to share? If you have any questions or comments – do get in touch! Just leave a message in the box below – I always love to hear from you.