Running – Exercise and Happiness
Running has great health benefits. Your heart, lungs, and legs all benefit from a daily running routine. Running really benefits nearly every part of your body.
In fact, studies have shown that cardiovascular health is greatly improved through running. It can increase HDL levels, helps on overall cholesterol, can prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes; can reduce heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and some cancers. It can also give your immune system an important boost through an increase in white blood cells. Good stuff all around.
However, perhaps even more than the physical benefits, are the mental benefits. It just makes you feel good. You get a chance to get off by yourself, clear your head from the day’s activities, think good thoughts and get a total mental re-fresh.
Running – as well as other forms of strenuous exercise - is known to release endorphins in the brain. These act as a natural "drug," making a person more energetic, more awake and, even, happier. This is what is sometimes referred to as a ‘runner’s high.’ Interestingly, runners will tell you that the mental benefits of running are really what keep them going. Alternatively, if they miss a day – or suffer an injury that takes them away from running for a lengthy period – a certain gloom or sometimes even depression can set in. Just shows how closely linked are the physical and the mental – physical exercise can produce extraordinary mental happiness benefits.
Secret to Happiness – Earned Success
Studies have shown that true happiness actually has many causes. Genetics play a role. So do major life events. However, the good news is that the most powerful cause of personal happiness is something that is very much under your control. It is something I like to refer to as ‘earned success.’
Earned success is that feeling that you get when you are ‘on a mission.’ You have a motivating purpose – and you find yourself in motion – striving to achieve. These are the moments when you know you are alive. You can truly feel it.
Here is a humorous but immensely insightful video in the link below - a ‘Ted Talk’ by Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute where he describes the phenomenon of ‘earned happiness,’ the studies demonstrating its important role in forming the basis of human happiness and how you can apply it to your life. Definitely worth watching.
Norman Cousins’ Discovery
You may be familiar with the remarkable experience of Norman Cousins. In 1964, after a very stressful trip to Russia, he found himself in nearly constant pain. His doctor diagnosed him with a degenerative disease, confined him to a hospital bed and gave him only six months to live. The horrific illness had caused him already to lose the use of his arms, and his legs were deteriorating rapidly.
His response to the doctor’s diagnosis was certainly unusual – but at the same time, creative and brilliant. Cousins reasoned that if stress and negative emotions had somehow contributed to his illness, then positive emotions should help him feel better. With his doctor’s consent, he checked out of the hospital. From a hotel across the street, he began to take extremely high doses of Vitamin C while at the same time watching hour after hour of humorous films, comedies, jokes and whatever other funny things to make him laugh.
He said that after about 10 minutes of good belly laughing he would finally be able to enjoy approximately two hours of pain-free sleep. He had tried morphine and it had not given him this same level of relief. If laughter and positive thoughts were able to give Cousins more relief from pain that morphine, just imagine how much control we have over our physical bodies due to the way we think.
“Hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally without having to go outdoors.”
Stepping Out of the Shadows – Toward Happiness
I recently heard of an amazing opportunity to bring positivity and awareness to the challenging issue of mental health. Called ‘This Is My Brave,’ the initiative’s mission is to end the stigma surrounding mental health issues by sharing personal stories of individuals living successful, full lives despite mental illness through poetry, essay, and original music, on stage in front of a live audience, through stories submitted and published to the group’s blog or YouTube channel. In fact, I just learned that there will be a local production of the national effort to be held in Concord, NH, as part of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, on May 23rd. It’s so great to see the tide shifting and to witness people stepping out of the shadows. FYI - Auditions for “This Is My Brave” will be held February 19-23 at 278 Riverbend Community Mental Health, Pleasant St. Concord, NH 03301.
Happiness – and Just Plain ‘Fun!’
Sometimes as adults we just forget how to have fun! But simple things – like a town skating rink can be a great place to go. Put on the skates – and enjoy the outdoors. Or just get out into the fresh air and watch the people. Watch little boys and girls chase each other around the rink – falling down. Having fun. The photo above is the Newport Town Common Skating Rink. A local treasure – Open to one and all.
Quotes of the Week:
“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” ― Abraham Lincoln
“There's nothing like deep breaths after laughing that hard. Nothing in the world like a sore stomach for the right reasons.” ― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” ― Tom Bodett