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10 Reasons Why Exercise Makes You Happier

10 Reasons Why Exercise Makes You Happier

Tired of feeling down in the dumps? Move! Stressed about work? Move! Tired of feeling weak throughout your day? Lift! Getting tired going up the stairs? Head to the hills! It’s amazing what exercise can do for your whole life. It’s not just about getting into a better mood. It’s about making life more joyful! When it’s easier to move, it’s easier to do everything you want to do! Check out the list below to see if something resonates with you.

1. Better Mood

Within five minutes of cardiovascular exercise, you can feel happier! Once you get moving, your brain releases serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine as well as possibly others. These make you feel good! So, even if you don’t feel like doing anything, just going for a walk can make you happier!

2. Decreased Stress

According to one online poll, only 14 percent of people use regular exercise to cope with stress. As previously mentioned, it only takes five minutes to start feeling better and it doesn’t have to be intense exercise. In fact, low- to moderate-intensity exercise is better than high-intensity for stress reduction. I recently read an article in Runner’s World regarding how exercise affects post traumatic stress disorder. Walking, running and yoga tend to be the favourite choices.

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3. More Mental Resilience

On the tougher side of the coin, when you exercise in a way that pushes you physically, you get mentally tougher. When you are mentally tougher, you can handle more stress. For some people, the feeling of developing mental resilience is addictive. You reach your goal and start wondering what else you can do! People train to take themselves further and further in sports like running, martial arts, cycling, etc. This mental toughness helps in other aspects of your life. You can handle more of anything.

4. Life Feels Easier

If you could get through your day in a physically easier way, wouldn’t that be nice? If lugging groceries and children, or moving items around the house were easier, wouldn’t you be happier? Exercise can do that for you! Increase strength, improve your cardiovascular fitness and life just feels easier! Let’s not even talk about shoveling snow.

5. Improved Immune System

There are several speculations on how exercise improves your immunity. Exercise can help by flushing out bacteria from the lungs and may also flush out carcinogens by increasing the activity of your lymphatic system, which drains waste from your body.

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When your blood is pumping, you are also increasing the rate at which antibodies and white blood cells run through the body. They detect and attack illness. Why wouldn’t you want more of that happening inside you?

When you exercise, the release of stress-related hormones is slowed down. Stress is not just emotional – it is very physical. By decreasing those hormones, you improve your health.

There can be too much of a good thing though. Mild to moderate exercise improves your immune system. Heavy, intense exercise lowers immunity and increases those stress hormones. If you are battling a cold, doing light exercise like a walk or jog for a short amount of time is a good idea. If you are training for a marathon and just finished a long run or a speed work session then you should be careful not to hang out with sick people for several hours afterwards. Use that time to give yourself proper post-workout nutrition and rest.

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6. Participate in Life

Happiness can come when you feel healthy enough to do anything you want to do. When you can engage in play with kids and grandkids, join friends for various sporting activities, and do more things with your significant other, life is amazing. When you don’t even have to think about whether you are fit enough for basic activities, that is a great place to be. Life is short; make it fun!

7. Healthy Aging

Exercise helps with maintaining a healthy weight. As you age, this becomes harder and harder to do without exercise. It also helps maintain mobility in your spine. When your spine is happy, your body can move properly. Having muscles that are able to react to your environment (think snow, ice, hills, heat, cold, etc.) makes life a whole lot easier as we age.

8. Better Sleep

When you sleep, your body temperature drops and this drop in temperature helps you sleep. When you exercise for 20-30 minutes,  five to six hours before bedtime, your body temp will then drop lower than it would if you did not exercise. This makes for better sleep!

9. Increased Energy

I must say, from personal experience, my most productive time comes AFTER I exercise. I get the most work done and feel good doing it. Treat your body like a savings account; pay yourself first! If you are new to exercise you might feel a little more tired for a week or so but then you start feeling better, and better! Stick with it!

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10. Reduced Depression and Anxiety

“There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people. And people who were active and stopped tend to be more depressed than those who maintain or initiate an exercise program,” says James Blumenthal, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Duke University. “Exercise seems not only important for treating depression, but also in preventing relapse.”

So there you have it! No more excuses. Go for a five minute walk, take up yoga, try running, and be happy!

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Jennifer Wasylenko

Exercise Physiologist, ACSM

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Last Updated on November 9, 2020

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

2. No Motivation

Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

5. Upward Comparisons

Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

6. No Alternative

This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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7. Stress

As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

8. Sense of Failure

People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

9. The Need to Be All-New

People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

10. Force of Habit

Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

Final Thoughts

These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

More on Breaking Bad Habits

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
[2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
[3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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