Science has long proven the link between elevated mood and exercise. Physical exertion releases endorphins, which give the body and brain a natural high that can’t help but improve one’s overall mood and focus. Here are 6 simple mood-boosting exercises that don’t require a lot of time, space, or fancy equipment to accomplish.
All you need is some floor space, nonrestrictive clothing, and a little time. The combination of balance, stretching, and breathing increases oxygen to all parts of your body, including your brain. Studies have long shown yoga practitioners have reduced stress and anxiety levels and improved overall focus. Whether you’re trying to boost flexibility, lose weight, or calm frazzled nerves, yoga has many styles to practice to fit your needs.
Walking or Running
Taking a simple walk or jog around your neighborhood or at a nearby park is a great way to get the blood pumping. Cardiovascular movement increases the flow of oxygen and releases endorphins, often called “runner’s high,” which can elevate your mood for hours afterward. Proximity to nature adds the chance to absorb Vitamin D, another mood enhancer, and all that fresh air and beauty of the outdoors can make a simple trek a magnificent experience.
Not only does dancing not feel like exercise, with the variety of dancing styles, there’s no end to the amount of fun one can have. Taking a class with a partner or alone can provide a sense of accomplishment and learning, as well as getting a chance to socialize. Because dancing is also a form of self expression, it increases the connection between mind and body, fostering a sense of purpose and self confidence in just being yourself.
A blend of martial arts and meditative moves, Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that requires balance, muscle relaxation, mental concentration, and relaxed breathing. It doesn’t require a great deal of space to perform, and the increased strength, balance, and flexibility one achieves can be very empowering. Performing the moves can improve mindfulness and centering yourself in your body to show what it is capable of.
While this one does require a piece of equipment—a trampoline—bouncing around works the legs and core of a body in ways many other exercises don’t. It’s fun, can be done alone or with others, and it doesn’t take much before the laughter kicks in. There are even trampoline dodge ball games to be had at places like Sky Zone.
Don’t underestimate the benefits of a good stretch, especially if you don’t have a lot of time for exercise. A simple hamstring stretch, runner’s pose, or touching your toes gets the blood flowing, relaxes your muscles, and increases oxygen. Find a wall, put your toes on the baseboard, and lean toward the wall with a slight bend to your knee for a great calf stretch. Lie on your back with your knees bent, and put one ankle on the opposite knee, then twist to the side until the sole of the foot resting against your knee touches the floor. Leave your arms spread to the sides, and repeat for the other leg. You’ll feel the pull from your hamstrings to your shoulders, and all you need is a bit of floor space. Taking a few minutes to stretch each muscle group limbers your body, increases blood flow, deepens your breathing, and resets your mind so you can focus on the rest of your day.
Whatever your mood-boosting exercise of choice, even a few minutes a day of movement and breathing can help physically and mentally to soothe nerves and improve brain function. People who move more, regardless of how, achieve better sleep, cope better with stress, and overall have a more positive mood than those who don’t.