Exercise can be a great way to lift our mood and balance our emotions. When we exercise, our bodies feel more relaxed and calm. Our brain releases endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals all work together to make us feel good. Sometimes, after working out, or after a long run or walk, we feel a sense of accomplishment. Our muscles are able to relax more deeply because of the workout, relieving built up tension and strain. You may also feel better about your appearance and yourself when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem.
Studies have shown that exercise can help improve mood temporarily in depressed individuals. In fact, for people with mild or moderate depression, 30 minutes of intense exercise can be as effective as medication for improving mood. People who do not respond to depression medications may show improvement in mood when they exercise. That’s because our bodies are made to be self-regulating, when we take care of ourselves.
Whether you want to perk up, calm down, feel sharper, or just get happier, there’s an exercise that is right for you. Some that you can try are:
Cardiovascular Exercises and Aerobics increase the release of endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine in your body. Cardiovascular exercise and aerobics are great for creating the intensity required for a mood-raising chemical high.
Yoga has been shown in studies to reduce tension and stress while improving mood. Yoga focuses on a range of stretching, breathing and motion that create a release of negative emotions in the body. Yoga, interestingly, has been shown to be particularly effective for men, compared to other exercises like swimming.
Pilates is helpful for people with sleep problems. Sometimes not being able to sleep is tied to having a hard time relaxing, since good sleep is difficult to achieve when you’re stressed and can’t wind down. Pilates is a system of core-strengthening moves done on a mat or an apparatus called a Reformer. Men and women who practiced Pilates regularly were less likely to experience troubled sleep. These sleep improvements may be linked to an increased bodily awareness; when you’re more in tune with yourself, you’re better able to let go of stress and feel relaxed.
Cycling, even for just 30 minutes has been shown to boost energy levels. Cycling activates brain neural circuits that make a person feel energized. We tend to think of physical activity as being tiring, but in fact physical activity adds energy to our lives.
Lifting weights is obviously great for toning your triceps, but it does the same for your mental muscles. Lifting weights, ones that are comfortable to you, improves executive function in your brain, which includes the ability to plan, regulate behavior, and multitask, and focus.