Exercise is one of the keys to happiness. Research shows that people who exercise are healthier, more energetic, think more clearly, sleep better, and have delayed onset of dementia. They get relief from anxiety and mild depression, comparable to medication and therapy. They perform better at work.
Also, although it’s tempting to flop down on the couch when you’re feeling exhausted, exercise is actually a great way to boost energy levels. Feeling tired is a reason to exercise, not a reason to skip exercise.
But even when you admit that you’d feel better if you exercised, it can be very hard to adopt the habit. My idea of fun has always been to lie in bed and read, preferably while also eating a snack, but I’ve managed to keep myself exercising by using all these tricks on myself:
1. Always exercise on Monday. This sets the psychological pattern for the week. Along those lines ?
2. If at all possible, exercise first thing in the morning. As the day wears on, you’ll find more excuses to skip exercising. Get it checked off your list, first thing.
3. Never skip exercising two days in a row. You can skip a day, but the next day, you must exercise, no matter how inconvenient.
4. Give yourself credit for the smallest effort. My father always said that all he had to do was put on his running shoes and close the door behind him. Many times, by promising myself I could quit ten minutes after I’d started, I got myself to start?and then found that I didn’t want to quit, after all.
5. Think about context. I thought I disliked weight training, but in fact, I dislike the guys who hang out in the weight-training area. Are you distressed about the grubby showers in your gym? Do you try to run in the mornings, but recoil from going out in the cold? Examine the factors that might be discouraging you from exercising.
6. Exercise several times a week. If your idea of exercise is to join games of pick-up basketball, you should be playing practically every day. Twice a month isn’t enough.
7. If you don’t have time to both exercise and take a shower, find a way to exercise that doesn’t require you to shower afterward. Twice a week, I have a very challenging weight-training session, but the format I follow doesn’t make me sweat. (Some of you are saying, “It can’t be challenging if you don’t sweat!” Oh yes, believe me, it is.)
8. Look for affordable ways to make exercising more pleasant or satisfying. Could you upgrade to a nicer or more convenient gym? Buy yourself a new iPod? Work with a trainer? Get a pedometer to keep track of your walking distances? Exercise is a high life priority, so this a worthwhile place to spend some money if that helps.
9. Think of exercise as part of your essential preparation for times you want to be in especially fine form?whether in performance (to be sharp for an important presentation) or appearance (to look good for a wedding) or mood (to deal with a stressful situation). Studies show that exercise does help.
10. Remember one of my favorite Secrets of Adulthood, courtesy of Voltaire: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Don’t decide it’s only worth exercising if you can run five miles or if you can bike for an hour. I have a friend who scorns exercise unless she’s training for a marathon?so she never exercises. Even going for a ten-minute walk is worthwhile. Do what you can.
11. Don’t kid yourself. Belonging to a gym doesn’t mean you go to the gym. Having been in shape in high school or college doesn’t mean you’re in shape now. Saying that you don’t have time to exercise doesn’t make it true.
People often ask me, “So if I want to be happier, what should I be doing?” and I always say, “The first thing to do is to make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep and plenty of exercise.”
I know that answer doesn’t sound properly transcendent and high-minded on the subject of happiness, but research shows that you’d be wise to start there. And I’ve found that if I’m feeling energetic and well rested, it’s much easier to follow all my other happiness-inducing resolutions.
Originally published on The Happiness Project
Thanks for sharing these tips. I exercise a few times a week, been thinking of trying yoga also. Carmella
There are lots of times I just don't feel like going to the gym but I make myself and I always feel better afterwards. Probably my biggest motivation is looking at my Mom and her family. They are, for the most part, morbidly obese. It runs in my family and it will most certainly happen to me if I do not exercise and eat right.
Great tips for staying with exercise routine. It is so true, if you don't work out in the morning you can keep making excuses till the end of the day and you will not get it done. I have a very painful nerve disease(RSD) and FMS and exercise is my physical therapy and a necessary "evil" for me. It is very painful for each move I do but I have to do it to keep my body moving and my muscles from contracting and atrophying. It takes all the willpower I can muster to exercise b/c I know the pain I will endure. If I can do it, I know the rest of you can do it too. (*;*)
Some very helpful tips. I would love to exercise more, finding the motivation is the most difficult part!
These do seem like good tips. It's very hard when you work full time. When it was warmer outside i tried to get the dogs out for nightly walks. Now that winter is here, not quite sure what i will do
#3 this is so true! i find myself so motivated to work out that when i do skip a few days of not working out, i fall out of habit/pattern. time flies by so fast when you aren't looking at the time and concentrating fully into your work out. #11 hits home for me at my work place. the ladies i know at work always keep bragging how they are joined a gym, but seriously? i only see them going once every 5 months, and they keep complaining why they aren't fit or loosing any weight. great article! also, i don't believe this was mentioned in the article. if you have work out buddy, it would be more enjoyable and you can motivate each other!