Exercise & Happiness

Fitness is the first requisite for happiness

Exercise makes you happy!

Have you noticed that, too? I’m not someone who goes out running or exercising because I always love it. But once I’ve overcome my weaker self, it takes as little as five minutes for me to feel so much better about myself, about the day, just about everything really. Yes, exercise makes me happy.

Why is that?

From a medical perspective, happiness is the release of certain hormones. The “mediators” transmit nerve impulses via synapses to the brain and are thus the base for all emotions, every thought and every movement.

There are six such messengers that in popular science are called happiness hormones: Endorphins, Phenethylamin, Serotonin, Dopamine, Noradrenalin, and Oxytocin.

Endorphins (the name is a blend of endogenous and morphine) have an analgesic effect similar to morphine and opioids. Endorphins can put our body into a state of intoxication and are released when we injure ourselves.

Phenethylamin can be found in cacao beans and in our brain and urine. It is believed to play a role in experiencing pleasure, lust and happiness. 

Serotonin, a hormone and neurotransmitter, is relevant for many processes in our body and is considered to be one of the most important happiness hormones. It helps us to be more relaxed, more composed and happier and dampens anxiety, aggression, worries and hunger. Melatonin, a derivate of serotonin, is produced one over night and production increases during the darker winter months, helping us to sleep better.

Dopamine is a stimulating neurotransmitter and responsible for emotions to be transmitted, controls the circulation of our inner organs and transmits impulses to our muscles. 

Noradrenalin is a stress hormone closely related to adrenalin, and thus also responsible for the fight-and flight reflex and also a neurotransmitter.

Oxytocin is produced in the brain and has a very important role during the delivery of a baby when it stimulates the uterus to contract thus starting labour and the mammary glands to produce milk for breastfeeding. It further decreases cortisol levels in the blood and thus reduces stress. Oxytocin is also believed to play an important role in babies bonding with their mother, and for psychological conditions like love, trust and serenity. 

Apart from these “happiness hormones” there are other substances in our body that may be responsible for our happiness and wellbeing. 

Endocannabinoids are endogenous “intoxicating” substances similar to drugs like Cannabis that might be released during sport and thus helps us to feel less pain and anxiety. 

During exercise increased levels of these “happiness hormones” are released making is happier.  

Exercise can do a lot for your life. It is good for our overall health, our heart, our brain. And it makes us happy. It’s the best medicine I can think of!

Posted on August 23, 2019 by Luitgard Holzleg

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