Can Movement Shift Moods?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have moments of crankiness, and I sure had one last week because of significant roadblocks I’d encountered in a real estate project.

Negativity crept into my thoughts, and the same positivity-boosting tools I teach others didn’t make a dent in my mood. The funk just wouldn’t lift.

self-defense pictureUntil . . . I kicked and punched my way through a self-defence class. Afterwards, I felt amazingly energized and liberated. By the next morning, I’d developed a coping strategy that’s led to more peace, focus, and productive problem-solving. Yay!

But of course

In hindsight my transformation made complete sense.

  • Learning a valuable new skill made me feel more powerful, or, in positive psychology lingo, “self-efficacious.”
  • I had to completely focus my attention on the class or I’d get hurt.
  • All that high-intensity kicking and punching took a lot of effort.
  • My classmates and I had fun cheering each other on.

Physical and Mental Benefits

My experience fits with a number of scientific studies that confirm physical activity reduces stress and anxiety while also improving mood, memory, creativity, and learning ability. Here’s how:

  • Physical activity increases neurotransmitters in the brain that act as natural mood enhancers and antidepressants.
  • It boosts blood flow to the brain, aiding the production of new neurons and brain cells.
  • It serves as a distraction from stressors, including negative thoughts.
  • It gives a sense of control over the body. By contrast, depression and rumination lead to a perceived loss of control.

Of course exercise isn’t a cure-all. But it’s powerful. In fact, Tal Ben-Shahar, a leading Positive Psychology researcher, ranks exercise as his No. 1 tip for boosting happiness.

6 Tips to Move More

Try a novel approach to physical activity this month as we continue our 2016 Positivity Tool adventure. Here’s a few ideas:

  1. Find an activity that makes you happy! Crazy idea I knrunning in the morningow 🙂 I recently rediscovered the sheer joy of running, enjoying nature and feeling the cool, fresh air on my face. It helps me see the world afresh and full of possibility.
  2. Schedule it. Giving physical activity a specific slot in your calendar is key to creating a habit, which puts exercise on automatic.
  3. Make it a challenge! Try a new activity that’s moderately difficult but not impossible. For example, have you heard of Intensati? Check out this Ted Talk. I’m looking for an Intensati class in Vancouver … let me know if you find one.
  4. Make it a social event! Being accountable to others will help get you out the door, and exercising with friends can be more fun than going solo.
  5. Or make it “me time.” Part of my re-enjoyment of running comes from heading out early in the morning when nobody else is around.
  6. Consider an activity tracker. Especially if you’re a goal-setter or a measurer. I started using a Fitbit after reading this Positive Psychology article, and I love it! It keeps me accountable and so happy when I see all the little green bars marking my progress.


One last thing…

 Would you like a Facebook Group just for us adventurers?

Our February positivity tool on relationships made me realize that dialogue could add an element of camaraderie, support, and idea-sharing to our 2016 Positivity Adventure.

So I’m thinking of setting up a Facebook group just for us. Though I’m slightly embarrassed to admit Social Media is a new world to me, it may be a way to create a greater sense of community. What do you think? Would love your feedback in this 3 question survey.

In the meantime, continue to lead your life with a focus on G.R.A.C.E. [Grow Relationships & Choreograph Efforts]…enjoy yourself and the moment…and lead with confidence!

May the (positivity) force be with you.

.. Mary Ellen (ME)

Mary Ellen Sanajko
Leadership Coach & Trainer