We’ve all heard that if you exercise, you will improve your mood. But do you know why?
The obvious and well known answer first:
When you move and exercise, your body sends and receives the signal to secrete endorphins. These amino acid peptides reduce pain and enhance pleasure. Neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine, are also released—the same things that anti-depressant medications aim to increase in the brain.
The less obvious answer:
Rather than fighting our way through life, we need to surrender to it. Let’s imagine you are stressed out, intensely focused on your work/obsessions/addictions/flaws/pressures, and there is a pattern of stress-chemical release, muscular tension, shallow breathing, self-talk, thought processes, and negative neural responses in action (and re-action). Life keeps happening, and you automatically practice responding in a certain way. Pretty soon, you’re reacting on autopilot, and your tense stress-y response is just automatic.
How can you break the cycle?
Move! Get chaotic! Dance. Do Tai Chi, yoga, walk, swim, jog…jump up and down on one foot (run like Phoebe through Central Park!). It doesn’t really matter what you do—just move.
As Jim Gordon says, “Through effort comes ease; through chaos, order and simplicity; through will, surrender.”
I like to think of it like this:
- Feel stressed, stuck, anxious, tense, overworked, blah, or just too serious (any negative emotion that is something you don’t want, but have trouble changing).
- Create chaos in the body (break the patterns!)—It’s like hitting the reset button.
- Chemical and physical relaxation follows in the body.
We’re creatures of habit, mostly habits we’ve developed over time and don’t feel like we have much control over. Trying to force ourselves to relax by using only our thoughts and intention is difficult and doesn’t always work. But we all have the ability to create a little physical chaos—which can lead to a major case of relaxation!