There are a lot of reasons to be happy around this time of year, but sometimes that just isn’t life. The thing about life is that it’s always challenging you. Once you overcome a challenge, life tests you again. It’s nothing personal. It happens to everyone. We are constantly faced with challenges and every one we overcome makes us that much stronger.
And it brings us down. Sometimes, we’re just too damn tired to face another battle with life, yet we march on, doing the best we can. The holidays can bring out the best and sometimes the not-so-good in us, so what do we do when it feels like Santa shit in our stockings?
Exercise has been found to make you happier.
Doing moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity boosts your happy feelings. I run at MAF pace (180-your age; stay within 10 beats of that), which is 152-142 heart beats per minute. That’s a pretty moderately-paced run and your pace will differ substantially from mine depending on your fitness level. I also do interval training on the bike, which makes me sweat, pant, and get super red faced. TrainingPeaks will send me a few gold ribbons to make me feel better about my effort.
Happy Feelings are endorphins and neurotransmitters, which are released from the brain. Exercises stimulates the release of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters help regulate your stress hormones and boosts your mood. Think of a school cafeteria: it’s empty until it’s lunch time. Students start piling in. Just like exercise, lunch time for students generates a packed lunch room. You want every day to be like lunch time.
Exercise helps with depression. People with depression have a smaller hippocampus in their brain, which regulates mood. When we workout our bodies release neurotrophic proteins, which facilitate nerve cells growth and make new connections. When we exercise, this results in nerve cell connections and growth in the hippocampus, which helps symptoms of depression.
Just like how weightlifters want to get mad gainz, you want your hippocampus getting those same gainz like the bros in the gym. Exercise is like lifting heavy weights, growing your muscles. So, pump some iron and move and create some hypertrophy in that hippocampus of yours.
Exercising beyond your limit makes you mentally tougher. I can speak from personal experience that challenging myself in bike racing and 120-mile bike rides has made me more resilient. Knowing I can physically and mentally overcome challenges on the bike has given me the confidence to overcome adversity off the bike too. Additionally, when you work out, your body is forced to react to the stressors you’re placing on it. The more you place your body under this type of stress, the more likely it is to be able to handle other stressors.
20 minutes of exercise will boost those happy cells. You don’t even have to do some long, arduous workout. Simply going outside for twenty minutes for a walk or jog will help. The point is moving and getting your body to produce more neurotransmitters. If you can dick around on social media for twenty minutes without blinking an eye, surely you can walk outside, ride a bike, jog, yoga, anything that actually makes you feel good instead of FOMO.
What can you do?
1. Move a little bit more every day. Start with 5 minutes if that’s all you can do right now.
2. Make small goals in the short-term so they’re more likely to be achieved.
3. Find something you actually like to do and do it often.
4. Reach out to me and I’ll help: firstname.lastname@example.org