Exercise releases “feel-good” chemicals in your brain
When you exercise, your brain recognizes this as stress. As your heart rate increases and your muscles strain, your brain goes into “fight or flight” mode. To protect you from stress, your brain releases a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor).
“BDNF is like Miracle-Gro for your brain.” That’s according to Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey who describes it as a powerful protein that stimulates production of new brain cells and strengthens existing ones. BDNF flips the switch on a series of genes that grow brand new brain cells and pathways. The result? You learn faster, remember better, age slower, and rapidly rewire your brain. BDNF also increases your brain’s plasticity resulting in more flexibility which could explain why higher levels of BDNF are associated with warding off depression.
At the same time, other chemicals called endorphins are also released into your brain. The main purpose of endorphins it to block feelings of pain. But, they can also lead to feelings of euphoria. Believe it or not, you actually can get high on exercise!
Exercise teaches your body how to handle stress
Regular exercise definitely eases short term stress brought about in our daily lives. But, it can also help you become a less stressed-out person overall too. When you exercise and subject yourself to a low level of stress, you trigger hormonal changes. Do this often enough, and eventually, your body will get better at handling the rest of life’s stresses. Less stress = more happiness.
Exercise boosts your confidence
When you don’t feel very good about your body (whether due to weight issues, movement limitations, etc.), it’s easy to have low self-esteem. And, when you feel sluggish and suffer from low energy, it can put you in a terrible catch-22. You have no energy so you don’t exercise, which means you don’t change your body – resulting in lower self-esteem. This negative cycle can affect every area of your life.
The best thing you can do is take a single, small, do-able first step. Just start moving. This may mean a short walk every day. Later, that short walk may turn into a longer one, and then maybe a jog, and then maybe your first trip to the gym. Once you start to exercise, you’ll see your body slowly transform and your energy increase. And, when you feel physically better, stronger, more independent and more confident, you’ll be much happier.
Exercise helps you sleep better
Staying active on a regular basis has been shown to improve sleeping problems in people who suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders. When you improve the amount and quality of sleep you get every night, you’ll wake up feeling refreshed with a little “pep in your step”. You’ll have a more productive day which will lead to a feeling of accomplishment and – you guessed it – happiness!
So, the next time you are having a bad day (or week… or month…), take time to exercise and BE HAPPY!
Thanks Cornerstone Clubs and author Theresa Whitcomb