How happy are you? If we believe the statistics, then chances are you’re not a happy camper, at least according to the newly released findings of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's Better Life Index for 2012.
Each year, this survey rates life satisfaction factor in 36 developed countries, based on indicators such as economic prosperity, health care, employment, and a strong social support network. The USA didn’t make it to the top 10, taking 12th place behind “happier” nations such as Australia, Switzerland, and Scandinavian countries.
“If you are sad, anxious, stressed out or depressed you should find effective ‘pick-me-uppers’,” says Jason Kozma, owner and personal trainer at Santa Monica Personal Training. “Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you have to move to another country or a happier state.”
Whatever problems or challenges you are facing in your personal or professional life, there is evidence that a regular exercise program will help combat the blues. In fact, a Duke University study released at the end of the 1990s showed that a regular fitness routine could be as effective in treating depression as certain medications.
How can physical activity lift your mood? In several ways, Kozma says:
- Exercise produces endorphins and raises the body’s levels of dopamine, seratonin, and norepinephrine – natural “feel good” chemicals.
- It helps release emotional tension and pent-up frustrations, as well as distract you from worries and negative thoughts that cause stress and anxiety.
- Exercise boosts our confidence and makes us more resilient and empowered, so the more you work out, the better you’ll be able to handle the curveballs life throws at you.
What kind of fitness program will lift your mood most effectively?
“Start with resistance training and interval training, followed by stretching and breathing exercises to release stress and tension,” Kozma suggests. “When you fully exert, you can fully relax.”
You may not think of resistance training and interval training as a ‘”feel-good” exercise but Kozma notes that any workout that will make you healthier, stronger, and fitter, will boost your morale as well.
“If you manage to avoid and prevent medical conditions related to inactivity, such as obesity, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and diabetes, and if you significantly reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other age-related physical and mental disabilities, that should certainly make you happier,” he points out.