Do you remember the scene in the movie Legally Blonde where Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is defending her client convicted of murder? You know the part–when she says, “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, and happy people don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t!” It might sound silly, but there is truth to the endorphins help to boost your mood.
Side note: If you haven’t seen that movie, you should add it to your list. Jennifer Coolidge alone makes it worth it just for the “bend and snap” scene.
We know that finding joy is real. Just when things start to look a little bit brighter, something pops up into the world that makes it seem almost impossible to hang onto a brief feeling of comfort, safety, and happiness.
Full disclosure, I am not a happiness expert. I am, however, familiar with the highs and lows when it comes to physical and mental health. I’ve been a fitness instructor for almost 10 years now. I have seen my share of clients, students, friends, and even family members swing back and forth on the pendulum when it comes to adding fitness into their routine, and how it affects them when they are able to stick to their workouts.
What I’ve learned, especially over the last two years, is that we’re all a hell of a lot stronger than we give ourselves credit for. Think of those days when finding the energy to get out of bed seems impossible. Being physically active is something that has helped my own sanity and well-being. Seeing the transformations in my students on the days and weeks where we meet, whether in person or on Zoom, carries a noticeable change. There’s a lightness in the tone of their voice, text, or email reply. There is a change of facial expressions from the start of class to the end, and not just because the class is over. (Well, that might count for a small amount of it.)
Doing more than just walking a few feet to get coffee, and actually allowing our entire body to circulate oxygen and to wake up other things going on is important. According to The Mayo Clinic in “Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms,” published September 27, 2017 exercise has been linked to helping with the following:
- Releasing feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that enhance your sense of well-being.
- Taking your mind off problems so you can break from worries and negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety.
When it comes to the workout, exercise, or movement that you’ll benefit the most from, it varies from person to person. The easiest way to find something that will help you to get your endorphins is to think about the things that give you the least amount of stress by starting.
For example, if you love spending time outdoors, start with a 10 minute walk around the block at your favorite time of day. Then slowly go from there. See how you feel. Maybe it turns into a 15 minute jog or even a 30 minute run! You don’t need to transform yourself into a marathon runner, but maybe you’ll find yourself enjoying it more than you thought…and who knows, maybe having that small start will give you the strength and confidence to start that 5k your neighborhood puts on every 4th of July.
Not a fan of seeing other people (or even comfortable doing that yet?) the options have only improved in that department. There are countless online classes and workout programs that you can try out to see what you’re into. From pilates to kick-boxing, yoga, or karate, to even learning how to dance! There are also hundreds of online games that will allow you to ‘play’ while also getting active and helping you to move your body. Two of my favorite video games date back to my college days: Nintendo’s Wii Fit tennis and hula-Hoop challenge. If you have your own VR set, a new game I’m hooked on is called “Beat Saber” and it allows you to work almost every muscle in your body and work up a sweat while actually challenging your rhythm and balance.
Be kind to yourself when it comes to setting reasonable goals and know that not every exercise program works for everyone. Part of being able to achieve that endorphin high is because your activity isn’t just another chore in the day, but instead, it’s attainable and special to you. Explore the many ways you can move your body and get those dopamine levels up and endorphins in full action…and most importantly, help lower the rates of Mariticide–LOL.