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Want to Be Happier? Get up and Move!

Doesn’t it seem like everyone is on a quest to find happiness? We hear about it everywhere – in the news or magazines, in movies and on television, and in the discussions we have with our closest friends. If you’re like most people, you’ve thought about it and wondered what you can do to make yourself happier. There are so many things that can drag you down emotionally, knocking your mental health out of balance. I see it all the time in my clinic. Women come in wondering why they are feeling so lousy emotionally, and when we start to talk about what’s going on in their lives, the stories are remarkably similar. Too often, women take care of everyone else in their lives and forget to make time for themselves. Add to that the inevitable childhood baggage and before they know it, the stress takes its toll – quite often showing up as anxiety, depression and a general sense of unhappiness. When you’re struggling with feeling low, it can be so difficult to pull yourself out of that dark place. When it becomes overwhelming, you might be tempted to spend as much time as possible in bed or on the couch. But have you ever noticed that instead of making you feel better, your mood often sinks even lower? Being active might be the last thing on your mind, but what if I told you that even finding small ways to increase your activity on a regular basis could make a huge impact in the way you feel? Your body and your mind are more connected than you know. Science has shown that physical activity can help combat mild depression and anxiety. Part of this is chemistry. Exercise has been shown to increase dopamine receptors, which sends more “feel good” signals to the brain. We also know a lot more these days about how stress can impact mental and physical health. Research suggests that exercise can aid your body in dealing with stress. But that’s not all. In addition to the chemical changes that occur when you are active, regular activity can distract you from troubling issues, offer a social outlet, promote self-esteem and self-co ntrol, all of which can leave you feeling emotionally lighter. It doesn’t take as much moving as you might think to make a difference. There’s no need to have an hour – or even half an hour – at a time. Ten minutes several times a week can be just as effective as a longer workout. Even just parking a little farther away from your office building, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can help you squeeze ten minutes of activity in. And there’s even more good news. A recent research study indicated that even non-exercise physical activity can make people feel happier. If simply standing up and walking around your home or office can help you feel better, isn’t that enough reason to make a more conscious effort to move? With this information, there’s no need for excuses. It suggests that you don’t have to participate in activity you don’t enjoy – instead, find ways to move that incorporate things you already love! There are also so many high intensity exercise options from brisk walking, bike riding on level ground, hiking, skateboarding or roller blading, volleyball, basketball, and even pushing a lawn mower! One way to know you’ve hit a moderate level is if you can talk, but not sing a song. Find a friend who has similar interests and try something new together – after all, part of being happy is spending time with people you really like! It's important to remind you that there’s no need to run a marathon or do a 30-mile bike trek to gain the benefits. Interval training is a great way to gradually increase your activity level. If you’re running, for instance, try a brisk walk for a minute, run hard for 30 seconds, and repeat this cycle several times. Is there something you’ve always loved? Or always wanted to try? Now is the time to start moving towards better health and the happiness you deserve! Yours in health, Maria Lucey, Nutritionist and Health coach 0438 112 050

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