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Run Yourself to Happiness

Harris Interactive third annual Work Stress Survey reported that eight out of every 10 American workers are stressed by their jobs. Last year, the report showed that a shocking 73 percent of Americans were stressed at work; this year that number has jumped by more than 10 percent, leaving just 17 percent of workers unaffected by the stresses of work.

 

This report highlights a critical epidemic in our society: stress is becoming our nation’s biggest deterrent of happiness and satisfaction. Every aspect of the human body is negatively effected by stress – from the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, to the central nervous system, to the digestive, reproductive and muscular systems, to the immune system and the brain – stress as the ability to completely override our bodies, which suppresses our pursuit of happiness and negatively effects our quality of life.

 

It’s time to put an end to the suffering of stress. Before you spend immense amounts of money on anti-stress measures like medications, therapy and more, consider investing in a pair of tennis shoes and a gym membership. That’s right – by making an effort to exercise on a regular basis, you will find yourself becoming less stressed, less anxious and happier. Here’s how it works:

1.     Dopamine: The Happy Chemical

Dopamine, or “The Happy Chemical: is a neurotransmitter in the brain that’s responsible for producing happy, pleasurable feelings. The older we get, the more dopamine we loose, making our brains more susceptible to feelings of stress and anxiety. However, exercises like running, lifting, jumping, playing, dancing and generally increasing your heart rate, triggers the release of dopamine in your brain – making you happier and less stressed.

2.     BDNF: The Positive Protein

When you’re stressed, your body experiences several different reactions: blood pressure rises, heartbeat increases, chest tightens, etc. As you begin to exercise, you experience very similar feelings, which tricks your brain into thinking that you’re either fighting stress, or fleeing from it. To protect yourself and your brain from this fight-or-flight concept, you release a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor, or BDNF. This protein has both protective and reparative effects on your memory neurons and acts essentially as a reset switch, which leaves us feeling calmer, clearer and happier after exercise.

3.     Endorphins: The Road to Euphoria

The other vital chemical in the fight against stress is called endorphins. This chemical is released to minimize the discomfort of exercise or block the feeling of pain. Endorphins are also heavily associated with feelings of euphoria, which bring sparks of intense happiness and ease to a stressed-out brain.

 

These chemicals and proteins play a big roll in what happens to our brain when we fight stress and unhappiness with exercise. It’s important to remember, however, that exercising more or exercising harder isn’t necessarily the key to happiness: it’s when you exercise that’s important.

 

A study from Penn State suggests that starting your day with 20 minutes of running or exercise will lead to the highest levels of happiness and productivity. With 20 minutes of exercise every morning, you reduce your risk of disease and other health issues, as well as your risk of stress and unhappiness.

 

Life is too short to struggle with sadness and stress, so what are you waiting for? Tie on those tennis shoes, turn up your music and get moving! Farewell stress, hello happiness.