As we’ve seen at Cranky Fitness, a little bit of attitude can go a long way in your fitness regimen. But being in a downright bad mood is not conducive to exercise.
I’m sure you’ve noticed: when you try to exercise angry, your yoga mat, aerobic step or bike will ALWAYS revolt.
The best way to enter an exercise regimen is calm, confident, and alert. And isn’t that how we’d like to feel all the time? So how do we get there?
The Happiness Chemical
Serotonin is a chemical in the brain with the power to chill us out, lift our spirits, and let us sink into a blissful sense of well-being. Sometimes all it takes to spike our serotonin level is the right food.
Complex carbs are one type of food known to increase serotonin levels. Could that be why Elizabeth Gilbert started her Eat Pray Love journey with a pasta binge? (If you’re going to attempt your own healing feast, I recommend these healthy pasta recipes from Eating Well).
Unfortunately, there is such a thing as too much serotonin. According to Janice Taylor, weight loss guru and creator of the Kick in the Tush Club, high serotonin levels can make us tired, while low levels can make us head for the frozen dessert aisle.
To find that serotonin sweet spot — happy, but awake and in control of your cravings — try one of these approaches.
Eat Balanced Meals
Fruits and veggies are serotonin-producers of the energizing variety. Head to the produce section for melon, bananas, apricots, avocado and some dark-green leafy vegetables (source: Mind & Mood Foods).
Vitamin C and the “B group” vitamins are also mood-lifters, and they’re easy to come by first thing in the morning. For a list of breakfast options rich in these and other nutrients, check out our U.S. News article, 5 Reasons to Never Skip Breakfast.
If you tend to suffer from sudden shifts of mood — plunging from ecstatic to sad, focused to foggy-headed — chances are it’s related to something you ate (or didn’t eat). Nutrient deficiencies can flip the mood switch fast, but it’s not just a question of serotonin levels. That’s why you can’t go wrong with balanced meals.
Eat Every Three Hours
For those who get cranky when you’re starving, and suffer from that midday crash mentioned above, the ‘5-6 meals a day’ mantra was made for you.
Eating frequent meals isn’t just to perk up your metabolism; it can keep your moods high and your brain working at top performance all day long. Those smaller portions will leave you feeling lighter and less sluggish, for a shorter recovery time post-meal.
OK, this one’s not about eating. But it’s no secret that exercise can boost your mood (especially if you’re laughing.) Several studies have shown that exercise increases serotonin function in the human brain. Exercise has also been shown to increase your energy level, and I think we’ve all experienced that post-gym pep in our step.
Even low-impact exercise like yoga or walking can help you make it through the day, according to Mark at Marks’ Daily Apple. Or crank out some HIIT like metabolic circuits if you really need to be raised from the dead. And of course, hold onto that exercise high by eating the right foods after your workout. (Start with a peek at my Quick and Dirty Guide to Eating Post-Workout)
Another Reason to Be Happy
Going for a mood boost isn’t just a pleasant indulgence — it’s a life saver. Researchers have shown that hostility is a risk factor for coronary heart disease and all-cause mortality.
Hear that? You can die from being cranky.
Luckily, you can snag a mood boost (not to mention, health and longevity) with a few simple tweaks to your daily routine.
Have you noticed the effects of certain foods or activities on your mood?
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