Daily stress can lead to substantial mood swings. Combat highs and lows by reassessing your fitness practices. Adding daily, scheduled gym sessions can help you cope with stress physically, while chemically, your body makes you feel better as well. Chemical reactions in the brain are one of the major reasons that you feel the brain boosting benefits of exercise.
The endorphins that are produced by the brain during intense exercise cause the brain to respond as positively as they would with euphoric drugs. When you put your body under the stress of running, biking, weight lifting or other work outs, this chemical reaction can improve you mood on the most minimal or, for some people, extremely intense level.
When you exercise, your brain’s biology is effected by increased levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain. People who are depressed have low levels of serotonin, while avid exercisers seem to have higher levels across the board. Regular exercise not only increases the brain’s production of serotonin, but also the brain’s ability to use it. Serotonin helps regulate mood, and can help control appetite and will power if you are changing your eating habits as well. Certain diets can assist in serotonin production as well, elevating mood levels even further, to the extent that drugs like Prozac and other antidepressants do.
Make the Change
What you do for exercise is as important as what you eat to get the anti-depressant qualities of your fitness. Aim for at least 90 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. You can divide those minutes any way that you’d like, just keep them as intense as your fitness level can handle. As you continue with your workouts, you can add intensity, continually increasing serotonin levels.
Walk it Out
Exercise helps improve your mood in more ways that just the chemical. Ever have a day where you are so aggravated or angry that you want to, well, punch something? Hard work at the gym may make you feel like you did! Combine weight with cardio, or power out some rough intervals on the Stairmaster and get multiple benefits. Not only do you get the calorie burning, strength building benefits of a great workout, but you get to work out some stress, by taking some much needed alone time.
Pop on your headphones and listen to some tunes that make you happy. The deep, regular breathing needed during exercise will calm you as well. You may find that taking your workout outside, or simply choosing the machine closest to the window may help you feel happier, enjoying even more feel good benefits.
You’ll probably find that aerobic activity is what really boosts your mood. Add some jogging intervals to your long walks, or hit a cardio machine, rather than just relying on weights or slower cardio routines. Even yoga, praised for it’s calming benefits, does not trigger the production of serotonin that aerobic workouts do. In other words, if you’re sweating, your brain is working to get you going toward the coveted “runner’s high”.
Give your brain a double boost by adding serotonin friendly foods to your diet. Fish, protein rich lean meats and omega 3 rich spirulina or flax seeds can help your brain produce serotonin, resulting in positive mood changes. Omega-3 and vitamin D supplements will likely give you the same effect.