Humans are complex creatures. The mental affects the physical, and the physical affects the mental. When your mental health is the most optimum, you will have more energy than if you are having a day of feeling down in the dumps. But why is that?
Endorphins are your natural feel-good hormones. They make you feel happy and on top of the world. If your endorphins are at a low ebb, you may feel sluggish, depressed and have little energy. You feel like you are simply plodding along through life, getting nowhere.
Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals. They make us feel happy, sad, alert, alarmed, and they can put us in fight-or-flight mode when threatened. One neurotransmitter or brain chemical that you definitely want access to is dopamine. This is derived from the same Latin root word as “dope,” as in illegal drugs.
Dopamine is like a nerve lubricant. It runs through the neuron and is excreted at the point where the receiver of the chemical connects with the portion of the nerve that secretes it. All of this activity going on in the brain is infinitesimally tiny, but so important. When you exercise, you secrete dopamine in the brain. This is where the term “runner’s high” emanates from. When you jog or walk or run or ride a bike or do any other type of aerobic activity for a half hour or more, your dopamine neurotransmitter mechanism begins to kick in. Even though you don’t have a specific reason that triggers your happiness, like a raise at work or a new romantic interest, your dopamine neurotransmitters are up and running during physical activity. What better reason to exercise?
Physical Exercise for Depression and Inability to Feel Pleasure:
This is why, as an alcohol and drug counselor, I always recommend that my clients get physical exercise. When a person is coming off an addictive substance, his pleasure-sensation neurotransmitters have essentially stopped working to the point where he cannot feel pleasure. The technical term for this phenomenon is anhedonia – the inability to feel pleasure. But exercise, eight hours of sleep a night, a balanced diet and positive relationships all help to kick-start the neurotransmitters and endorphins. Once those begin functioning again, happiness and normalcy returns.
Everything in the human body is interconnected. The mind/body connection is huge. Of all the remedies for mental health, physical fitness and exercise help a person who is mentally under the weather to feel better about himself, his appearance and life in general.
The next time you are feeling down in the dumps or just a little blue, take a brisk walk. It doesn’t cost you a penny, and it will do you a world of good.
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