Why Does Exercise Make You Happier?

Why Does Exercise Make You Happier?

When people think of happiness, grinding out a personal best on the bench press or running a few miles on a hot day are not usually the first things to come to mind. However, regular exercise has many benefits, including making you happier. Other benefits include better cardiovascular health, better immune function, higher bone density, and healthier bodyweight. However, for people recovering from a substance use disorder or other mental health disorder, The mood boosting effects of exercise are perhaps most important. Here’s how exercise makes you happier.

Exercise reduces symptoms of depression.

Many studies have found that exercise reduces the symptoms of depression and anxiety. This happens in several ways. First, exercise increases levels of dopamine in the brain. You’re probably familiar with dopamine for its role in addiction. Dopamine is involved with goal-seeking behavior and it makes us feel energized and motivated. This is especially important for people new to recovery, since they often experience low dopamine levels, which cause lethargy and the inability to feel pleasure. You get even more of a dopamine boost if you set and achieve realistic goals for your exercise. Exercise also releases endorphins that relieve pain and make you feel better. Thirty minutes or so of moderate exercise can improve your mood for the whole day.

Exercise improves emotional regulation.

Exercise has been shown to increase activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This part is responsible for executive functions, such as planning, working memory, self-control, and emotional regulation. When the lower areas of your brain, such as your amygdala, start freaking out over some perceived threat, it’s your prefrontal cortex that calms things down and keeps you from spiraling into an episode of depression or anxiety. It’s essentially the calm parent who shows you there’s no one hiding in your closet at night.

Exercise reduces stress and anxiety.

Overall, exercise reduces your levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. However, while you’re exercising, those hormones actually increase. That’s because your body is literally under stress. Your breathing and heart rate increase and sometimes you’re not sure if you can keep going. However, when you stop and rest, your body has a chance to recovery and become stronger. When you exercise, you essentially practice being stressed in a healthy way. This allows your body to handle stress more efficiently when you encounter it in daily life.

Exercise helps you sleep.

Many studies have found that exercise improves your sleep, even in people with insomnia and other sleep disorders. Exercise wears you out a bit and makes your body crave rest. Exercise also reduces anxiety and stress, which keep many people up at night. Better sleep leads to better mood. Studies have found that losing one night’s sleep can increase anxiety by more than 30 percent, and several nights of too little sleep can increase suicidal thoughts. However, these problems are quickly corrected when you get enough sleep.

The mission of The Beach House is to provide success in the recovery process and elevate the standard of comprehensive addiction treatment. Located right on the coast of Malibu, California, expert clinical care and a holistic view of the recovery process is provided to ensure Best-in-Class treatment tailored to the needs of each client. If you’re ready to start your recovery journey today, call us at 310-736-4183.

Kimberly James

I am the founder and owner of The Beach House Treatment Center, The White House, Indigo Ranch, Sweetwater Mesa and Beach House Center for Wellness, all in Malibu, California.