Exercise is key to maintaining good mental health. Studies show that physical activity has an impact on the level of endorphins and serotonin in circulation in the body. Endorphins and serotonin are two neurotransmitters produced naturally by the brain. They are responsible for modulating mood and brain chemistry. At high levels, they prevent pain and sadness, while low levels tend to inhibit positive feelings. Production of the two chemicals is often correlated so that elevating endorphin levels can also trigger a rise in serotonin levels.
While both endorphins and serotonin are known for boosting emotions, serotonin produces a milder effect, causing happiness and feelings of security. Endorphins, on the other hand, are a more intense form of pleasure, sparking such reactions as euphoria and ecstasy, depending on the amount of endorphins circulating in the bloodstream at any given time. At low levels, endorphins can produce the mild effects of relaxation and joy, similar to those produced by serotonin.
Strenuous exercise can raise levels of both substances, although endorphins are more likely to be triggered and released by exercise, research shows. Physical activities ranging from running to sexual intercourse are known for stimulating endorphin production.
In the United Kingdom, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence makes recommendations on the treatment of mild depression to include exercise as studies have shown exercise to improve mood in some patients with mild depression. The most consistent effect is seen when regular exercisers undertake aerobic exercise at a level with which they are familiar. There have been some studies as well that suggest regular exercise might play a role in treating severe depression.
Once you create a regular routine of exercise you will find a domino effect occurs. Your emotional well being develops momentum and you are open for other things to take place. When people mobilize themselves to make a change, they harvest positivity from that change. This can increase hope while generating personal empowerment. People who create an increased level of capacity (which is measurable in physical exercise) have the ability to transfer that to other aspects of life.
Exercising regularly, even taking a walk for 20 minutes several times a week, may help you cope with stress.
What has been your experience? Do you feel happier, more relaxed or less stressed after your work out?
Contributed by: Manon Dulude, PhD PCC, has over twenty-five years of extensive experience as a Leadership and Team Development Coach as well as a Counselor and clinical consultant. Manon has served as Executive Coach for senior executives and key officials in the financial sector, government sector, hotel industry, crown corporations, and the non-profit sector.
Manon has developed curriculum and delivered training programs to many organizations in the areas of leadership and team development, collaborative conflict resolution, effective communication, transition/change management, wellness, time and stress management, and organizational culture transition. Manon can be reached at [email protected] or (905) 873-9393.
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