5 Ways to Maximize Happiness

Get Fit
Even 20 minutes of walking can improve your mood.
Even 20 minutes of walking can improve your mood.

One of the most common tips offered for boosting happiness it to sweat your way to a smile. The jury is still out on the exact relationship between exercise and happiness, but the general idea is that exercising reduces the amount of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the blood and pumps up the volume of endorphins. When endorphin hormones enter the brain, they block receptors normally reserved for pain, which is why we associate them with positive feelings.

A recent study from the University of Bristol concluded that participants who exercised before work or on a lunch break were indeed calmer and less stressed than those who didn't [source: Daily Mail]. Not only were the members of the active group in better moods, they also met deadline demands more efficiently and exhibited improved interpersonal skills. Interestingly, the active group designed its own workout routines, rather than following a prescribed regimen. Despite variations in intensity and duration, about three quarters of them felt better [source: Daily Mail]. Similarly, in 2008, the American Heart Association also published findings that just 20 to 30 minutes of walking two to three times per week can make you happier [source: USA Today].

In addition to cheerier outlook, exercise also lowers blood pressure and reduces your risk of diabetes and heart disease. It takes discipline to establish a regular exercise habit, but the payoff is manifold.

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  • Daily Mail. "People who exercise on work days are happier, suffer less stress and are more productive." Dec. 16, 2008. (May 28, 2009)http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1095783/People-exercise-work-days-happier-suffer-stress-productive.html
  • Lambert, Craig. "The Science of Happiness." Harvard Magazine. January-February 2007. (May 28, 2009)http://harvardmagazine.com/2007/01/the-science-of-happiness.html
  • Lloyd, Robin. "The Keys to Happiness, and Why We Don't Use Them." LiveScience. Feb. 27, 2006. (May 28, 2009)http://www.livescience.com/health/060227_happiness_keys.html
  • Lyubomirsky, Sonja. "The How of Happiness." Penguin Group. 2008. (May 28, 2009)http://books.google.com/books?id=dqQwhLVZCTEC&client=firefox-a
  • Morris, Holly. "Happiness Explained." U.S. News & World Report. Sept. 3, 2001. (May 28, 2009)http://www.usnews.com/usnews/culture/articles/010903/archive_002876.htm
  • Shenk, Joshua Wolf. "What Makes Us Happy?" The Atlantic. June 2009. (May 28, 2009)http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200906/happiness
  • USA Today. "Walk it out: It doesn't take many steps to see benefits." March 24, 2008. (May 28, 2009)http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-03-13-exercise-quality-of-life_N.htm
  • Wallis, Claudia et al. "The New Science of Happiness." TIME. Jan. 9, 2005. (May 28, 2009)http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1015832,00.html


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