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Trigger Nature’s Antidepressants
Exercise pumps up not only the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin, but also levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, two other natural happiness helpers. Plus, working out makes it easier for tryptophan (a building block of serotonin) to enter the brain, says Dr Daniel Amen, a Men’s Health psychology advisor.
You don’t need an intense gym session – walking or jogging 15 minutes at lunch will do the trick.
Heat Your Brain So You Can Chill Out
Exercise triggers the white blood cells to release pyrogens, peptides that increase the body’s temperature slightly. The result? A soothing, full-body heat wave. “Working out has a calming effect very similar to that of spending time in a sauna or a hot shower, and all three can help relieve anxiety and depression,” says Dr Larry Leith, author of Exercising Your Way to Better Mental Health.
Exercise your large muscle groups by cycling, swimming or lifting weights for at least 20 minutes. “That’s how long it takes to achieve the temperature change,” Leith says.
Interrupt Negative Thoughts
Working out stops self destructive mind games; if your workday is a source of your angst, interrupting the flow could be a real help. “Exercise gives a sense of self-mastery, and that’s a powerful coping mechanism,” says Dr Keith Johnsgard, author of the book Conquering Depression and Anxiety through Exercise.
Choose a sport you loved playing as a kid and get back in the game. “If you go back to an activity that made you feel good, it’s likely that those neural pathways will be stimulated again,” says professor of psychiatry at Harvard medical school Dr William Pollack.