The mental health benefits of physical activity are undeniable no matter what your preferred activities are. Physical activity has a profound effect on self-perception, mood, and perseverance. In fact, physical activity plays a huge role in feeling happy.
Physical activity increases levels of endocannabinoids in our brain which boost our mood while reducing pain. The production of these chemicals is responsible for the “runner’s high” phenomenon that we have all heard about. They also trigger the release of other feel-good chemicals in the brain like dopamine and endorphins which contribute to our feeling of happiness. Of course, this feeling is not limited to running. We can get this same feeling after doing any activity of moderate intensity for at least 20 minutes.
Studies have shown that it takes about 6 weeks of exercising consistently before it becomes a habit. Regular exercise increases levels of endocannabinoid receptors in the brain over time so our brain cells become more and more responsive to these chemicals. Our increased sensitivity to these feel-good chemicals helps motivate us to keep exercising.
Happiness from physical activity also comes from doing synchronized movement with others. Think about how you feel while exercising in a group doing yoga, Zumba or spinning. Moving in unison makes people feel more connected to each other. In dance, having that connection with your partner or a group of dancers gives us that feeling of oneness and of community.
Pairing music with physical activity gives us that extra push to go beyond our physical limits. The physical discomfort that we feel with strenuous activity is more easily overcome when accompanied with music that motivates us. A strong, upbeat tempo keeps us going during higher intensity activities of endurance or strength training. In contrast, the soothing music used for yoga helps to bring us to that more meditative state where we can breathe through the discomfort of more challenging poses.
Doing physical activity outdoors in a natural setting can enhance that feeling of happiness even more. Being out in nature reduces feelings of stress, anger, and fear and contributes to our emotional well-being. Physical activity in nature provides a double whammy of those feel-good chemicals in our brain.
The benefits of regular physical activity are not limited to improving our physical health. No matter what your fitness level, just moving more will make you feel more happy and give you a greater sense of community when done with others. Adding music that motivates you and the beauty of nature makes it even more rewarding.