Lift your mood via movement
Bliss, hope, high, happy….we all love the days when we feel optimistic and life is full of joy.
As mentioned in my last blog, https://vitalitywithesyltt.com/2023/05/05/the-perfection-of-nature/ this month I have been participating in ‘Mindful in May’. Dr Elise Bialylew’s inspiring program teaches her listeners about the benefits of mindfulness and how to be mindful while raising money for a worthy charity.
Each week Dr Elise interviews several mindfulness experts and this week one of them was Kelly McGonigal, focusing on her most recent book ‘The Joy of Movement’ http://kellymcgonigal.com/the-cover-story
Amazingly, this book is NOT about the physical benefits of exercise. We all know that exercise is good for us. It helps us stay strong, avoid osteoporosis, keep a healthy weight, reduce our risk of the diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
This is about the effect of exercise on the brain and includes fascinating insights into what neuroscientists and psychologists have discovered about exercise, brain chemistry and feeling fabulous instead of frumpy.
Today I’ll share just two of the many ‘happiness’ molecules that muscles make, release and positively affect the brain, myokines and endocannabinoids.
When you move, the big muscles in your arms, legs, back and chest make something called myokines. As you contract or squeeze the muscles when exercising these myokines are released into your blood stream. They are phenomenal little proteins and contribute to:
- Promote muscle growth and repair
- Increase the use of stored fat as an energy source
- A natural anti-inflammatory effect
- Positive effects on the cardiovascular system, if produced regularly they reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke
- Improved mood and brain function. Myokines, once released into the blood stream cross the blood brain barrier. Their effect on the brain has been linked to improved mental health, increased cognitive abilities, and reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
These little myokine molecules are so amazing some researchers referred to them as ‘hope molecules’! Now that you know about them, you’ll be eager to find out how you make more of these little guys. The key, McGonigal says is move. Her opinion is that all movement helps. Here are some suggestions on how to maximise the production of myokines and elevate your mood:
- Move regularly, i.e. most days of the week for 15 to 20 minutes
- Moving fast enough to increase your heart rate is important – walking at a moderate pace will do this
- The harder or longer you move the more benefits you gain however anything is much better than nothing so move within your capacity, preferably doing something you enjoy
- Moving outdoors amplifies the benefits. Especially when surrounded by the wonders of nature. https://vitalitywithesyltt.com/2022/08/13/words-for-walking-in-the-wind/
As I mentioned earlier, myokines are not the only amazing chemical produced or activated by your body in response to exercise. Endocannabinoids are another bliss chemical your body produces and guess what? Movement boosts the activity of these too. Unlike cannabis, endocannabinoids are naturally produced in your body. Their effect on the brain is to amplify the good feelings, enabling you to feel pleasure and connection more abundantly. At the same time they are tuning down feelings of anxiety, anger, frustration and physical pain.
Personally, I’ve often experienced these effects. Lifting some weights at the gym or going for a walk in nature is a remedy that almost always helps me feel less stressed and more alive, more hopeful.
If you haven’t already moved for at least fifteen minutes today I urge you to get out for a walk, focus on your surroundings – the sights, sounds and smells, the feel of the ground beneath your feet and note when you sit down again how different you feel.
Wishing you vitality and hope,