By Rebecca Palmer
Davis Wellness Editor
A growing body of research shows a positive link between exercise and feeling good.
New research is adding knowledge about how feeling good and being healthy are inextricably linked.
I can only speak anecdotally, but I think these researchers are on to something important.
Of course, telling people who are blue that they ought to go for a run is counter-intuitive. When I am sad or discouraged, I don’t want to move at all, and I’m sure many others have the same experience.
However, it was an epiphany for me when I realized that exercising doesn’t have to mean running three miles or signing up for P90X. Instead, I can simply get off the couch or out of my office chair and go for a stroll. There’s something about the increased oxygen and the muscle movement that helps me break up the worst of my negative mental blocks, and it’s nice to know that I have something in my feel-good arsenal that isn’t intimidating.
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic agree. Exercise can ease depression, and probably other mood problems, by releasing feel-good brain chemicals such as neurotransmitters and endorphins. Furthermore, it can reduce immune system chemicals that can worsen depression, and increased body temperature can have calming effects. Psychological benefits include gaining confidence, taking your mind off your worries, getting more social interaction and coping in a healthy way.
Short bouts of exercise are a good way to relieve temporary emotional crises, but regular exercise has long-term mood boosting effects too. On days when I’m exhausted or particularly stressed, however, that abstract concept is about as useful as a soup spoon in a spaghetti restaurant.
Instead, I try to reward myself with treats that aren’t directly related to exercise. For example, I might only allow myself to listen to an audiobook while I’m working out. Alternatively, I can reward myself with favorite symphony as I hit the elliptical machine.
I encourage you to customize your program based on the things you want. Not into music? Try rewarding yourself with new clothes only after you have been to the gym 30 times. Hate to be alone? Arrange a round of disc golf with a group.
I have also found it helpful to find a friend or coworker to act as a confidante. Be honest about using movement as a way to feel better, and ask them to join you on walks. Sometimes, simply speaking your darkest thoughts aloud and telling of your plan to fix them can make that very plan seem more reasonable.
On that note, I would go on a walk with you.
If you happen to be coming to the Clipper neighborhood, give me a buzz at 801-295-2251 ext. 126 and we’ll go for a stroll, if I can fit it in. I want to know what you think, anyway. Alternatively, send me your thoughts and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: The illustration that accompanied “Iridology” in the March edition of Davis Wellness was not intended for use as a diagnostic tool.