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Exercise is Essential for a Good Mood

An important part of recovery is learning to manage your mood. Everyone has ups and downs. That’s normal. The danger comes when you start feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, or depressed. There are many aspects to managing your mood. In therapy you will learn about how your thoughts affect your mood and you will discover what specifically triggers your stress and anxiety. You may have to arrange your life to remove some negative influences. You may need medication. All of these things depend largely on the individual. One thing everyone can do to improve her mood is exercise.

Exercise is, in fact, essential for a good mood. Most people are far too sedentary. We drive everywhere and we sit around at home. Too much sitting makes us feel achy, sluggish, and anxious. We have evolved to spend most of our waking hours walking around and doing things. Some body systems, like the lymphatic system, which removes toxins and fights infections, depends mostly on movement to function. Without movement, toxins build up and infections spread, both of which make you feel bad. You have to move around for the lymphatic system to function properly.

Exercise is especially good for your brain. Moderate exercise pumps more blood, and hence more oxygen to the brain, allowing it to function properly. Many studies have shown that exercise increases levels of serotonin, dopamine, and BDNF in the brain. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that antidepressants increase to make you feel better. BDNF, which stands for brain-derived neurotrophic factor, actually grows brain cells, especially in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in creating new memories. Dopamine, of course, is the “reward neurotransmitter,” part of the system drugs hijack to create addiction. Only in exercise, the dopamine system does what it is supposed to do and encourages healthy behavior.

These mood and cognition benefits are why so many high achievers throughout history have been extremely active. Ben Franklin used to teach swimming lessons and carry heavy weights up and down stairs on his lunch breaks. Thomas Jefferson walked about 12 miles every day. More recently, Barack Obama starts most days with an hour and a half of exercise, and George W. Bush has a very impressive 5k time. Even cerebral types, like Nietzsche and Einstein would spend several hours a day on long walks, thinking about problems.

Finally, exercise gives you a sense of control. Quite often we feel stressed and either we don’t know why or we do know why and can’t really do anything about it. This is a perfect time to go for a run. One reason is that taking action makes us feel better. Once you get past the initial difficulty of exercising, you discover that it really is the fastest way to improve your mood. When you find yourself feeling anxious, it’s empowering to know you can do something about it right away. Another reason is that when your mood is better, your thinking is clearer. After a run, that problem you couldn’t do anything about may suddenly have an obvious solution.

If you are ready to leave active addiction behind, Gardens Wellness Center can help. We can help you detox and figure out what program of treatment is right for you. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at to learn more.