Smile big. March 20 is the International Day of Happiness. It is a global campaign coordinated by Action for Happiness, a movement of people from 160 countries. The celebration was inspired by the recognition that progress is not just measured by economics, but rather by an increase in happiness and wellbeing. The 193 member states of the United Nations have adopted resolutions granting a greater priority to happiness.

Exercise and the brain

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Exercise and happiness

Many people think of exercise as obligatory but certainly not fun. They view it as rigorous and painful. What they often overlook, though, is that while exercise does require some sacrifice, it can actually help make us happier. Indeed, exercise is linked to improved mental health. In fact, health professionals claim that regular exercise can help mitigate depression, ADHD, anxiety, and stress. Exercise is also known to improve a person’s memory and facilitate better sleep.

Benefits of exercise to mental health

You don’t have to be a gym rat to test this hypothesis. Even moderate amounts of exercise can make a big difference.

Along with getting your physical body in great shape, exercise can do the following:

  • Reduce stress – Stress relief is often the most readily noticeable benefit of exercise. Had a bad day at work? Try heading outside for a brisk walk. It can help clear your mind of worries and help you view your challenges with a new and improved outlook.
  • Release endorphins – Endorphins are chemicals released by the brain during exercise. They react with the brain’s receptors to reduce the perception of pain. Endorphins trigger positive feelings in the body.
  • Improve self-confidence – Exercise can help boost self-esteem by giving us more energy and helping us feel better about our capabilities and appearance.
  • Unite you with nature – The great outdoors can do us all good, and exercise often forces us to explore nature rather than staying cooped up inside. Jogging in the park, rock-climbing, hiking in the forest, or boating can expose people to a world that they may miss out on when they are holed up in the office or at home.
  • Ward off cognitive decline – People lose brain function as they age, but exercise can help slow mental deterioration. Exercise triggers the releases of chemicals that keep brain cells healthy.

Want to be happier? Make sure that exercise is part of your daily routine. It may take some effort to get yourself moving, but you’ll be glad that you did.