How to Stay Happy

Provided by ISL Consulting Co.

Exercise is good for your body, but did you know that exercise is also good for your mind?

Research has shown that regular exercise delivers a mental and emotional boost. It improves your mood, bolsters your self-esteem and gives you the confidence to handle whatever comes your way. Some studies hint that it also enhances the functioning of your brain.

Your Body's Medicine Cabinet

When you are physically active your body releases chemicals known as endorphins. These are your body's natural painkillers and stress reducers. They diminish anxiety and depression and produce a sense of well being known as the exercise "high."

Just one workout can release another cache of natural antidepressant chemicals from your body's medicine cabinet, such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.

A study at Duke University found that intense bouts of exercise are every effective in reducing feelings of depression, tension, anger and confusion.

Meanwhile, a host of other studies have shown that even short spurts of moderate exercise can improve your outlook on life and make you less anxious. Whether you take a brisk ten-minute walk, do a few jumping jacks, or bicycle around the block, you will feel the benefit both physically and emotionally.

Stress Buster

Chronic stress releases a number of different chemicals and hormones into your body that raise blood pressure, weaken your immunity to colds and illness, impair your memory, increase fat cell storage, and lead to depression.

Regular physical activity has been shown to be an effective stress buster and successful weapon against its debilitating effects. The set of beneficial chemicals and hormones released during exercise are an important arsenal that can defeat the negative chemicals created by stress.

Canadian researchers discovered that depressed people experienced significantly less depression after exercising for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, three times a week for five weeks. In some cases the benefits lasted up to one year. It is important to note however, that severe cases of depression require medical review and a combination of treatments.

In another study, a team of Australian researchers compared people who practiced progressive-relaxation techniques with a group who did 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week. It was the exercise group that had lower blood pressure and responded best to acute stress.

A Boost to Self-esteem

How we feel directly affects how we use our bodies and how we look. Feelings of distress or doubt can cause us to hunch our bodies in an effort at self-protection. As a result our spines are compressed and our breathing is shallow. We limit ourselves to small movements leading our muscles and joints to stiffen and weaken. It is no wonder that our spirits might sag and our sense of self-esteem drop through the floor.

Often just starting out on a new exercise program can boost your sense of self-worth. As you find yourself progressing, you'll also find your confidence growing. Choose physical activities that stretch and strengthen. They will help you to physically stand taller, feel better, and face the world with a positive outlook.

Yoga poses such as the Sun Breath, Mountain, and Warrior One, can help build confidence and self-esteem. They strengthen your legs, joints, and spine so that you can feel grounded and stable. The postures create good spinal alignment to help you stand tall and increase your range of movement. They open your chest for deep regular breathing that can calm your nerves and mind.

Time Out

Like many leisure activities such as meditation or your favorite hobby, exercise gives your mind needed time out from everyday thoughts, worries and responsibilities. You return to your life refreshed, invigorated, and perhaps even mentally sharper.

By improving the flow of blood and consequently of oxygen and nutrients to your brain, it may be that aerobic exercise helps you to think better.

Regular weight training and aerobic exercise have been shown in several studies to impart an additional benefit. They can improve the quality and duration of sleep. A good night's rest can make you less fatigued and better able to function in your daily life.

A Little Bit Can Go a Long Way

A great deal of research continues to be done on the mental and emotional effects of physical activity. A recent study found that after several subjects spent 30 minutes on a treadmill, they scored 25 percent lower on tests that measure anxiety as well as demonstrated positive changes in their brain activity.

A brisk walk, a short jog, or even just several stretches during your day can help relieve stress and improve your outlook on life. Regular physical exercise releases a host of beneficial chemicals that can help you feel physically fit, mentally sharp, and emotionally positive. Find a physical activity you enjoy and give yourself a dose of good health every day. Stay fit and stay happy.

Last Reviewed: August 30, 2002

The information contained above is intended for general reference purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice or a medical exam. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before starting any new treatment. Medical information changes rapidly and while Yahoo and its content providers make efforts to update the content on the site, some information may be out of date. No health information on Yahoo, including information about herbal therapies and other dietary supplements, is regulated or evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and therefore the information should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease without the supervision of a medical doctor.

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How to Stay Happy

Courtesy of ISL Consulting Co