Whether you’re trying to get healthier through a revamped diet or a strict workout plan (or a combination of both) you’re probably doing it to get your physical body in shape. Physical fitness is something we all know about, whether we partake or not in improving ours, and how a healthy lifestyle is the first step towards a healthier you.
But what does a healthy lifestyle do for our happiness? Is it just so we can feel good about ourselves or is it something more?
Here are a few reasons why a healthy lifestyle is more than just a physical change, but can actually make you happier in general.
1. Fruits and veggies make you happy
So, you’ve probably heard of the term “superfood” and know that some foods have different effects on your brain. Antioxidants in blueberries will extend your memory, salmon keeps you focused, etc.
But did you know that most fruits and veggies are actually proven to make you happier? An Australian study followed a group of test subjects and examined what consistent consumption of fruits and veggies would do for them. What they found was after subjects continued to have more fruits and veggies in their diet every day was that they reported higher levels of “life satisfaction”.
So, your mum didn’t force carrots on you just for the good eyesight, she just wanted you to be happier in the long run too.
2. Working out eliminates stress
We all have those moments when going to the gym feels more like a chore than something fun to do. So, doesn’t that just add to the stress? Well, even though it might be hard to get to the gym, once you’ve completed a workout you might get that kind of “high” feeling with the adrenaline pumping through your veins. That’s what I’m talking about here.
Cardio and intense workouts have been proven to be great conductors of chemicals in the brain that promote a healthy mind. Not only can cardio improve cognitive function and understanding – great ways to combat stress – it also produces endorphins and adrenaline.
All these things together make you less likely to feel stressed and keep you energized and feeling good for the rest of the day.
3. Sleeping is good for the soul
So you may have heard that sleeping the recommended 6-8 hours a night can do a myriad of things, from helping you lose weight to clearing your skin. The reason for this is that lack of proper sleep – or too much sleep – has several affects on our brain.
First and foremost, when someone doesn’t sleep enough their body will release more cortisol, or in other words, “the stress hormone”. On top of that, the less you sleep the more prone you also are to become stressed later in the day as your brain doesn’t have the rest it needed to reboot.
Sleep is so important that you should keep a close eye on how much you sleep each night. Everyone works differently, so find the time that works best for you within the recommended range.
4. Meditation for a healthy mind
This may very well be the most obvious one on the list, but it’s an important part of a healthy lifestyle and a happy one. But it doesn’t make you happy just because you get to shut your brain off for a bit, it actually has a lot of science backing it that explains exactly why meditation is so good for us.
First is meditation’s affect on the amygdala, where anxiety and fear reside in the brain. During meditation, the amygdala actually shrinks and therefore reduces stress and anxiety. It can also reduce cortisol – that thing we mentioned earlier that comes when you don’t sleep properly – and even activate the left side of your brain more, which holds more of your happy and calm zones.
Overall, even a 30-minute meditation session can do wonders for your physical and mental health, so make time for it and see those happy hormones in action!
5. Massages make you relax
A lot of athletes use massage or chiropractic care as a way to eliminate pain or injury in their body. And though it’s great for that, it also has many mental benefits as well, primarily reducing stress and anxiety. We’ve talked a lot about cortisol so far, and guess what, massage reduces it as well.
When your body is producing too much cortisol it can cause a lot of things, like weight gain or a lower immune system. These are usually what we consider symptoms of the stress it produces. When you get a massage, it’s said to reduce cortisol levels by 31% and increase levels of both serotonin and dopamine, chemicals that we associate with happiness and love.
If you’re seeking massage for mental benefits, let your massage therapist know beforehand so they can ensure to give you the massage technique that works best.
So, do you guys feel happier when you’re healthier? Let us know in the comments!
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Jose Leon is a Reiki Master Teacher and Registered Massage Therapist based in Vancouver, BC. He has over 16 years of experience as an educator and practitioner of energy healing and healthy lifestyle living. Jose currently runs Reiki sessions and classes at his own practice, Jose Leon Reiki and find him also on Facebook.