Seeking a Natural High

A quick post today on my thoughts about why many people experience general down cycles in terms of happiness. This is different from depression, although the thoughts in this post could well be applicable to it.

My theory is that the sedentary lifestyle that most people live today has given rise to this issue of feeling unhappy all the time. It’s common knowledge that exercise makes you feel better, but I didn’t quite realise the impact it actually had on my quality of life until I started working out consistently.

I spent the majority of my university life in a state of constant unhappiness. Of course, there were ups and downs, but I’m talking about a general level of unhappiness. There were times when I would be feeling down for no apparent reason whatsoever. I never questioned this, and even thought it was normal. After all, why would you feel happy for no reason, right?

The 2-Week Experiment

At the start of summer, I decided to try a 2 week experiment. I changed my sleeping habit and started waking up at 6.30 every morning and going either for a bike ride or to the gym. At the end of every session, I would feel a natural high that allowed me to go through my day feeling relaxed and happy. I constantly felt lethargic, unmotivated and unhappy, but since I made this change, I’ve never felt better at any other point in my life.

In fact, I enjoyed the experiment so much that it’s become my daily routine. It’s pretty much an automatic process now, compared to before, when I would struggle to motivate myself just to go to the gym.

Working Out Provides the Natural High

Exercise is the secret to happiness. Or at least, it’s a big part of happiness. A potential reason for this is the release of endorphins into your system. Endorphins provide an effect similar to that of opiates – a euphoric feeling, or a natural high.  This is the feeling you get after a solid workout session.

I’m sure everyone knows that exercise has been linked to a diminution of stress levels, better health, etc. Before I started the 2 week experiment, I severely underestimated the impact it would have on my quality of life, and working out was always an “option”. I no longer consider it an option. I use my workout as part of the scaffolding for my day.

Mental Health Issues

I think that if society led a more active lifestyle, it’s quite possible that there would be a significant reduction in mental health issues (I don’t know if research has gone into this, at this point it’s simply an opinion based on my own observations and experience). As part of my mental health training, I noticed that a common pattern to recovering from mental health problems was the “Trinity of Happiness” (I don’t think anyone actually calls it that, just me); exercise, nutrition and sleep.

People greatly underestimate the effect that these activities have on them and I think it’s a terrible shame. Part of the problem can be remedied with education, but as usual, this needs to come from within. The individual needs to be open to the idea and willing to try it out.

Essentially, if you work out consistently, you’ll be significantly happier.

Disclaimer: I am not professionally trained in psychology, and these ideas are simply for discussion purposes and to encourage further research. 

TL;DR

  • I think our society leads a lifestyle that makes us highly susceptible to feeling unhappy.
  • My theory is that exercise could be the remedy for this.
  • The post workout “high” can help you get through the day feeling relaxed and happier
  • Exercise is very often underestimated (I would know, I underestimated it), and it has an incredible impact on quality of life
  • Don’t make it an option, make working out a part of your lifestyle