Happiness Habit #2 – Regular exerciseAugust 2 , 2012

Exercise. We know it’s good for us. It helps prevent all kinds of chronic health problems and helps us keep weight off. It boosts our energy, helps us sleep and improves our sex lives. But did you know that it also directly affects our happiness? One study showed that doing regular exercise had the equivalent emotional benefit of taking antidepressant medication but without any of the drug’s side effects.

How to Do It

If you are not exercising regularly, make getting that body moving a priority.

Start simply. You don’t have to grind out an hour at the gym to get the benefits. If you are brand new to exercise, make it a goal to walk for 10 minutes each day for a week or two. Then over a couple months build up the amount of time or the amount of effort by walking faster or jogging. The key to developing a strong habit is to do it every day (for other tips on how to make this new fitness habit stick, click here

 Since your goal isn’t “the most efficient way to lose weight” or “get ready for a race” but just to get moving, choose something fun, something that you enjoy.

Use your walks to explore a new area of your neighborhood. Join a soccer team or take a dance class. Find some hiking trails nearby. Garden. Give yourself credit for working the exercise you do in your normal life; taking the stairs, vacuuming, even a fun wrestling session with your kids all count. See if you can find someone to do these activities with you — this gives the added happiness benefit of having your exercise be social. And it can provide an accountability partner for those days when you might otherwise skip it.

The key is to get started. Now.

How It Helps

· Exercise releases dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, the brain’s happiness chemicals. This release has been shown to lift mood for up to 12 hours.
· Exercise trains the brain to believe that your behavior matters, raising your optimism in other areas of your life.
· By exercising regularly, you train your brain to see that you are successful, strengthening your self-regulation muscle. This results in a positive cascade that can lead to eating healthier, staying on your budget and keeping your house clean.

My experience

I’ve had a regular exercise program for more than a decade. Whenever I miss a couple days, I start to get moody and restless. Because I get bored doing the same thing every day, I mix up my exercise — integrating spin class, yoga, running and elliptical workouts. Just as important, I try to walk to appointments when I can and spend weekends getting the kids moving too with soccer in the park, a walk to our favorite breakfast place or some fun time on the trampoline. It really doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you get your body moving!

I go into more detail in the happiness benefits of exercise on this post: Exercise: It’s not just about health and beauty

Just do it!

Eric Karpinski
The Happiness Coach

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