We all get in bad moods from time to time, no matter how positive we try to be.
Maybe this was down to a rubbish nights sleep, or it feels like everything is going wrong and you feel overwhelmed or overworked. Or perhaps something has happened and you can’t get that recurring thought out of your head, hence the bad mood. Other days, maybe everything is going right… but you still feel miserable.
Whatever it is that has caused you to feel this way, there is always a way to counteract it. You might be feeling something you don’t want to, but can’t quite put your finger on it. As our emotions can change in a split second, it can be difficult to understand why you are feeling like this, unless there is a trigger to the situation.
In reality, you don’t always have to understand why you’re in a bad mood in order to change it. You just need to implement some other strategies to see that your day can be turned around; in particular, the ‘exercise effect’.
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You are probably aware that regular physical exercise is beneficial for our physical health, especially for the internal organs such as the heart and lungs, but exercise is not limited to the physical benefits. Exercise is one of the factors that can change our mood and at the same time improve our mental condition.
So first things first, there are so many different forms of exercise that you can partake in to change your mood. Personally, going for a run is one of the best ways to clear my head. If I have had a really bad morning/afternoon and everything just seems to be going against me, I get outside, get my headphones in and set off. When you perform cardio (whether this is going on a run, using a cardio machine in the gym or doing a HIIT workout), your heart rate will increase. It promotes the release of norepinephrine, which improves cognitive functioning; therefore helping to clear your mind. Running is a form of cardio that will force your psychological self to push harder, work harder and run faster, building your confidence with every step… and consequently forgetting you were even in a bad mood.
2. Exercise improves brain functioning
One of the reasons exercise enhances cognition it to do with blood flow. When we exercise more regularly, blood pressure and blood flow will increase everywhere in the body, including the brain. The more blood we have simply means more energy and oxygen, which makes our brain perform better.
A second explanation as to why exercise can enhance our mental capacity is that the hippocampus in the brain (the centre of emotion, memory and the autonomic nervous system), is highly active when exercising. The neurons in this structure begin to rev up and our cognitive function begins to improve. Research suggests that the hippocampus in individuals who regularly participate in exercise/active runners, are less vulnerable to anxiety and stress than individuals who do not make exercise a priority. So if you are having a mental block, or when your brain just feels mashed… go for a walk/run at lunch to clear your mind.
3. Confidence booster
Exercise has the effect of boosting your confidence, and this can be any form of exercise. Whether this is getting yourself pumped up in the gym or smashing a run, you’re subconsciously assuring your physical health, which actually boosts your mood; making you feel more capable of achieving outside goals. And it goes without saying, regular exercise will cause a change in your physique. Not only will you notice a change in yourself, but others will too. When you begin to see improvements in your physical fitness and confidence, you may be willing to socialise and take more risks; motivating all other aspects of your life.
4. Achieve a goal
If your bad mood doesn’t seem to be shifting because you’re not making any progress with a piece of work, making a small but challenging workout goal can satisfy that ‘need to achieve’. This could be working out in 30 minutes, giving yourself 30 seconds rest between each exercise, running a certain distance or attending a fitness class to help you feel successful. And if you didn’t manage to finish what you had planed that day, at least you know you burned a few extra calories and recharged your brain.
5. Exercise increases chemicals in the body.
Aerobic and anaerobic exercise increase the levels of neurotransmitters (a chemical messenger that carries, boosts, and modulates signals between neurons and other cells in the body) such as epinephrine, serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. All of these chemicals effect how you feel and influence your energy levels.
However… if you are having a bad day and your mood is extremely low, we experience stress hormones. These are a result of unhealthy food choices, inactivity, worries, frustrations and fatigue. If we make the decision to not care for our bodies, it will negatively effects nerve cells, impair memory and cause feelings of anxiety or worry. Working out produces chemicals that protect the mind from stress, damage, and emotional disorders. The endorphins that you feel during and after a workout occur because exercise repairs neuron damage and promotes mental growth, which immediately improves our moods.
Hopefully you can now see how beneficial exercise is not only for your physical health, but also your mental health too!