What is Happiness?
I believe we must be able to define happiness in order to understand how to generate it.
Webster’s defines Happiness as “Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 1999). The part of our brain responsible for “pleasure and contentment” is mediated by well-developed mesocorticolimbic circuitry. (Neuron. 2015 646–664.) When your body releases chemicals called endorphins they essentially block or numb your ability to perceive pain and stress. This feeling of physical and mental tranquility lays the ground work for happiness and euphoria.
Endorphins, Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin
You’ve probably heard of these mysterious chemicals: ” Endorphins, Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin”. They casually float in your body determining whether or not you get to be happy.
Fortunately, you have more control over your hormonal chemicals than you think.
Endorphins and others are primarily made in the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. These glands can be stimulated into hyperproduction by exercising or participating in activities that increase your heart rate. Our bodies use endorphins and other chemicals to help us get through stressful situations like combat, hunting, running, etc. Perhaps you’ve heard of a “runner’s high” or being in ” the zone.” These states of hyperawareness are a result of your body’s response to the demand you ask of it.
I am not your doctor. You should listen to your doctor’s advice. They will have a deeper understanding of your personal unique health situation. Carefully evaluate any suggestions they might have and do your best to make a decision that’s right for you.
In consideration of the foregoing, many doctors will agree that there are healthy alternatives to the pharmaceutical solutions that now plague our society. I’m writing this post to serve as another valuable solution that I hope many consider.
A study listed on The National Library or Medicine Website suggests that exercise, when done correctly and regularly, is at least as effective as modern anti-depressant medicine. (The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed) (Lynette L. Craft, Ph.D. and Frank M. Perna, Ed.D., Ph.D.) 2004; 6(3): 104–111.
So, as evidence shows regular sessions of moderate to aggressive exercise can increase your ESDO levels comparably to that of commonly used medications like Fluoxetine, Citalopram, Sertraline, and others. Medications like these are often habit-forming and create dependency. This can result in potentially dangerous side effects when abandoned.
Exercise, on the contrary, can bring positive results to your physical and mental health without detrimental side effects.
Purpose and Meaning
We all feel better when we exercise. These feelings are comprised of energy, clear-headedness, resolve, and creativity.
It’s important that when you begin your fitness journey, you also establish a clear purpose and a sense of meaning in your life.
What are your goals, and what do you hope to accomplish along the way? What type of legacy do you wish to leave behind you?
Fitness will give you the tools you need to tackle the obstacles of life and achieve your goals. At our gym you might often hear this quote, “Everyone wants to go to heaven but few are willing to die.” Basically, the things you want in life sometimes require an equal sacrifice. The road is long and hard. This journey won’t be easy and it won’t be given to you. Commit to a fitness program and give everything you have to becoming a better version of yourself.
In conclusion, this is my prescription and the preferred choice of many who seek happiness.
Until next time,
Craft, Lynette L., and Frank M. Perna. “The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed.” Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry vol. 6,3 (2004): 104-111. doi:10.4088/pcc.v06n0301 Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2004; 6(3): 104–111.