Happiness, Exercise and Holiday Depression
We are now well within the so-called “holiday season” and it, at least according to every Norman Rockwell painting I’ve ever seen, is supposed to be a perfect time of family, friends and cocoa around the fireplace. Unfortunately for some of us this is not always the case, in particular, although I love Thanksgiving, as evidenced by a previous post:
I have no special affinity for Christmas. The holiday season definitely brings its share of friends and family, parties and gatherings. This can be wonderful, but it can also bring with it a level of stress as well. Playing the host or hostess at parties, trying to figure out the perfect gift for a loved one or friend, renewing the old stresses of childhood at family gatherings, all of these things can be hard.
So, during the holiday season we have a tendency to do some things we don’t normally do. We eat too much, and definitely too many sweets, we drink more than we normally do. Additionally we are often traveling and all of this added together gets us out of our routines, particularly our exercise routine if we have one.
The holidays also bring something else to a lot of people, depression. People can feel really alone during the holidays, particular people who have gone through a major life change in the last year. That can often include the elderly, singles and people who do not have strong connections to family or friends. It has even gotten its own term, holiday depression. The link below can give you more information on the topic:
This brings us back around to exercise and happiness and the connection between the two in our lives. At any time exercise has a long list of positive effects on our mood. The list below comes from http://www.depression-guide.com/depression-and-exercise.htm and shows all of the ways in which exercise can improve our mood and increase our happiness:
- People have reported that, when they exercise, can think more clearly, feel happy, feel better about themselves, lose weight, develop strength, and enjoy a sense of well-being.
- Exercise increased positive mood
- they sleep better
- have less nervousness and anxiety,
- Exercise decreased negative mood
- Exercise improved vigor
- Exercise is effective in reducing stress, anger, fatigue
- Many evidence proved that exercise plays a vital role in uplifting depression
- Exercise improved the motivation and self-esteem in the person
- Many people even report that they look and feel younger when they exercise regularly.
- Exercise may help in increasing the feelings of coherence
- Exercise increased the feelings of social integration
- An exercise and depression study in which participants walked daily for even weeks found that the decrease in depressive mood and the improvement in vigor continued after five months.
- Another exercise and depression study which compared exercise alone, medication alone, and exercise plus medication found lasting improvements after six months in participants who had exercised without medication.
- When the participants continued to exercise the ongoing improvement was even greater. This study concluded that medication may produce quicker relief but exercise yields more long-term benefit.
For this reason having an exercise routine is always a benefit to our lives and can help us be happier individuals. Given the stresses of the holidays it is even more important this time of year to continue or start an exercise program. I can attest to the fact that the gym is pretty empty this time of year. Besides if you are exercising you feel a lot less guilty about those cookies that you just ate, or that glass of egg nog you’re going to have tonight. So, get out there, walk, jog, go to the gym, whatever it takes to burn a few calories, raise your heart-rate, burn off some cortisol and release some endorphins. In the end you will feel better and probably live a longer, happier life.
I’m including a couple of resource articles on the various aspects of exercise and happiness for those who want to read a little more. Happy Holidays!
Article on exercise and happiness from the psychological perspective:
It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor. ~Marcus Tullius Cicero