There are lots of ways to find happiness: hanging out with friends, chowing down on your favorite meal or maybe sitting down and watching your favorite comedy. But there is one activity that is significantly underrated when it comes to lifting your mood: exercise. You may not be laughing, but going for a run or going to yoga class can really make a difference in your attitude, not to mention promotes anti-aging and a healthy immune system.
When you start to break a sweat, exercise releases feel-good endorphins into your body. Endorphins are chemicals that have the ability to cross through the gaps between neurons in order to pass along a message. There are many different kinds of endorphins, but one thing is for certain: they make you feel good. Michael Bracko, an exercise physiologist and spokesperson for the American College of Sports Medicine, told MSNBC that just one 30-minute session of moderate to intense exercise can help ease distress, depression, tension and anger. Other chemicals that contribute to the boost in mood include serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
What many don't realize is that there are certain workouts that alter different parts of their mood. Some can make your brain feel shaper, while others relax you or make you happier. Try one of these mood-boosting workouts next time you hit the gym:
Grab a mat and some comfy clothes and get ready to find your center. Yoga can help you to feel more content. The deep, slow breathing involved in the practice of yoga increases oxygen flow, which leads to optimal functioning of all your organs, including your brain. According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, yoga is associated with increased levels of GABA, an amino acid and neurotransmitter that may help to reduce anxiety.
If you're looking for an increase in your energy levels, hop on a spin bike. You may immediately associate exercise with feeling tired and drained of energy afterwards, but that's not the case. Many gyms offer spin classes so you can give it a try if you're new. Cycling may activate brain neural circuits which make a person have more energy.
If your brain is feeling a little clouded, you may find clarity when you pick up a pair of dumbbells. It may be great for toning your biceps, but it's also perfect for your mental muscles. Researchers suspect the mental clarity may be due to neurotrophic growth factors. These growth factors help the brain generate new neurons even later in life, and help to increase the flexibility of existing ones.
For those who have trouble sleeping at night, Pilates may be the answer. Those who report having sleeping issues also reveal that they have a difficult time relaxing, de-stressing and winding down from a tough day. One fix is Pilates – it has been linked with better sleep at night. The theory is when you're more in tune with your body, you're better able to let go of that stress you're holding onto and feel more relaxed when you crawl into bed at night.