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Your chemically induced happiness

What makes you happy? Love? Friends? A perfectly cooked steak? A gorgeous glass of wine? Children laughing? Booking a trip? Ticking off a job? Ticking off another job? Getting sweaty?

Or all of the above?

Sure, our happiness can come from all sorts of sources, but it ultimately depends on us: how we think and what we do – to the extent of what’s in our diet, how well and how much we sleep and our activity levels.

You don’t have to search far in books and online to read about the mood boosting benefits of exercise. The release of all those mood enhancing chemicals when you work up a sweat has been proven to affect emotions in a positive way. Exercise makes you feel good. It’s even been shown to be as effective as medication in people who are mildly or moderately depressed. What a job those endorphins have; you work out and they work to make you happy. Job satisfaction guaranteed.

I was discussing this with Maria when we last ran together in Buenos Aires over the holidays. We had both had a busy end to the year and our running was one of the things that had got pushed to the side. As we ran in the morning sun along those familiar streets we had missed, I told her I thought that some of my crankiness over the last two months had been down to the fact I hadn’t been running. She knew exactly what I meant.

I had been really busy, juggling jobs, travel and wedding planning. I am usually someone who secretly likes a to-do list and relishes variety in life and a lot of it. But I wasn’t always the usual positive, on-top-of-it, loving-it-all person I normally am. There was something missing. It wasn’t until I got on that plane to Argentina, knowing a run was on the cards, and finally had time to think, breathe and assess how the last few weeks had been that I realised it. I had missed my chemicals: those mood boosters which only need trainers to work.

I had missed my runner’s high.

It’s easy to make excuses when the wind is blowing like an Arctic storm around your house and the streets are piled with ice and snow. It’s easy to put a million important things on the list before a run. But it’s even easier to forget how you feel when you do get to do exercise.

I saw it this week as I’ve got back ‘on it’: two runs, a mile swim and a weights session (Hello obliques! Remember me?!) Even today with a wind to bring tears to your eyes; out I went. Just me, my trainers and then… those wonderful chemicals.

Stress and limits on our time are part of the norm these days. They bring people down. Misery can prevail. Don’t let it. Walk quickly, use wine bottles as weights, go swimming, have vigorous sex, practise your tree pose or just get out there and run.

It won’t make you feel better. You will. P1060187