For many years, I’d self-identified as someone who didn’t exercise and was even proud of this fact. Exercise, I had thought, was for type A superhuman marathon runners… but not me. Unfortunately, this view caused me to overlook a great source of happiness. Exercise has direct effects on your personal happiness, as well as taking care of your body through good food and good sleep. And literally everyone can do it.
Research shows that exercise has a large impact on happiness. Researchers posit that it might be tied to the boost of endorphins (feel good hormones) and lowering of cortisol (stress hormones). But it may also be related to accomplishing your exercise goals and having social contact. No wonder then, that in a Cochrane study, they found that exercise has a large clinical impact on depression, equivalent to psychotherapy in some cases.
Not only that but exercise also aides in neurogenesis – the creation of new brain cells. So if you care about your brain – take care of your body!
Ideally, you want to be getting 20-30 minutes of anaerobic exercises in. If that sounds daunting, try to start out with something small – like 10 minutes of exercise a day. Then continue to add 2 minutes a day each week. Not only will this prevent overexertion, but the lack of friction can create lasting habits. That’s how I started – and though my friends may have laughed at me, I now work into a sweat 30 minutes every other day. I also try to remove friction by actually having an exercise bike in the room next to my bedroom. That said, avoid overexercising. You might feel hardcore, but it can actually decrease feelings of happiness by reintroducing cortisol.
There are many good foods that you can eat. Certain nutrients like folate, omega-3, and vitamin D have been shown to increase feelings of happiness. On the flipside – research actually found that certain fatty acids can cause depressed feelings. Finally, a British study showed that the happiest people actually eat 6-7 servings of vegetables & fruits a day. So, if you can somehow incorporate more vegetables and fruits in your day – you will be likely to impact your mood. Blend it, carry snacks in your purse, and put them on your desk first thing. And don’t feel guilty about ordering a salad.
Sleep is something I treasure, a good on its own. Turns out though this beautiful thing actually increases your happiness. The more sleep, the better! Quality of sleep has an impact as does quantity of sleep. Try to sleep in silence, with no disruptions, with little to no light. And get those 8 hours. Poor or inadequate sleep is associated with trouble in school and work, depressive symptoms, and can even harm relationships. And sleep deprivation has actually been shown to impact your senses as much as alcohol-induced drunkenness. This leads to less productivity.
Finally a lack of sleep can disrupt good habits – it can prevent you from exercising, eating well, and general self-care. So get your sleep – your happiness depends on it!
For more tips, please check out Uplifter, an app designed to help you build gratitude and resilience through daily journaling exercises. Signup for early access at http://www.uplifter.io