WHAT HAPPENS TO OUR BRAINS WHEN WE EXERCISE AND HOW IT MAKES US HAPPIER

Exercise has been touted to be a cure for nearly everything in life, from depression, to memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and more. At the same time, similar to the topic of sleep, I found myself having very little specific and scientific knowledge about what exercise really does to our bodies and our brains.

So what is the connection between our feeling of happiness and exercising regularly?


WHAT TRIGGERS HAPPINESS IN OUR BRAIN WHEN WE EXERCISE?

Most of us are aware of what happens to the body when we exercise. We build more muscle or more stamina. We feel how daily activities like climbing stairs become easier if we exercise regularly. When it comes to our brain and mood though, the connection isn’t so clear, so here is what actually happens:

If you start exercising, your brain kicks into gear and recognizes this as a "moment of stress". Your heart starts pumping, your breathing speeds up, it's "fight or flight" accordng to your brain. To protect itself and you from this stress, the brain releases a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This protein acts as a reset switch for your brain by performing "repair and protect" tasks supporting the survival of existing neurons, and encouraging the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses = New neurons are born! . . . That’s why we often feel so at ease and things are much clearer after exercising, your brain has been re-energized.

At the same time, endorphins are released in your brain, these minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria. Be consistent with your exercise and that clarity and those endorphins will start evolving into happiness.

So, BDNF and endorphins are the reasons exercise makes us feel so good. They also have a very similar and addictive behavior like morphine, heroine or nicotine. The only difference? Well, it’s actually good for us!

Your Brain on Exercise


HOW TO GET INTO A CONSISTENT EXERCISE HABIT: THE DANCE WITH THE ENDORPHINS

Now, that’s all nice to hear you might say, starting to exercise regularly or even daily is still easier written than done. At end of the day, there is quite a lot of focus required to help you get into the habit of exercising daily. The most important part to note first, is that exercise is a “keystone” habit according to Charles Duhigg, New York Times bestselling author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. This means that daily exercise can pave the way not only for happiness, but also growth in all other areas of your life.

For more information on how BDNF benefits your whole body, please read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain-derived_neurotrophic_factor

Thank you LEO WIDRICH, Co-founder and CMO at Buffer  for this helpful article and Wikipedia for it's factual data on Brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This is a summation of those two articles.

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