I’ve always been known as the lazy one in my family. I’m not that fit, I don’t like running and generally, I’d rather be in bed than get out of it to do ‘exercise’. I used to sleep till midday if I didn’t have anything else to do. That was how people knew me. And I have to say, I wasn’t that happy. Looking back, I always felt quite low, used to over-think things and felt like a blob with no energy.
When I signed up to climb Mont Blanc this Summer, my friends and family thought I’d finally gone crazy. I now cycle to work and walk home when I can, go away walking at the weekends, spend most my money on walking gear, play tennis, bought some roller skates, bought a road bike etc. And of course, there were comments of ‘Alice has changed’, ‘what’s happened to Alice?’ etc. But alongside these were observations of how much happier I seemed. And there is a reason why:
Doing approximately 30 minutes moderate exercise, five times a week, releases an array of chemicals, which are proven to help you feel happier:
- endorphins make you feel exhilarated and happy;
- serotonin has long been linked with happiness and restful sleep;
- dopamine, the pleasure chemical, is associated with orgasms, which can’t be a bad thing surely!
30 minutes, five times a week can seem daunting to some though. And it did to me. I thought it meant squeezing into lycra to do hardcore, sweaty running in the freezing cold or boring gym. In reality, it is recommended that you do ‘moderate’ exercise for this length of time which actually isn’t that bad. All you need to do is something that will get you breathing heavier than normal but not out of breath, and something that gets you hot but not sweating. So it could just be a brisk walk 15 mins each way if needs be. That’s pretty achievable for most people I have to say.
So my point is that with just a little bit of exercise we can make ourselves feel happier, and of course tone up some wobbly bits in the process. It doesn’t need to be anything too strenuous or out of your comfort zone and it can be something fun.
The Mental Health Foundation website has some great tips on how to get started if you’re not usually that active e.g. what sorts of activities might suit you best, overcoming barriers, goal setting, keeping it going etc. These are the types of challenges that I often work through with clients looking to exercise more as it happens.
After my Masters I found it difficult to find a job but Alice helped me develop my skills and has been very supportive thoughout the whole process.