Balancing Your Mood: Part 2, Exercise
December 2001

Beta-Endorphin and You
Aside from the visible benefits of exercise (toned muscles, weight loss), there are chemical benefits too. Beta-endorphin. You might be wondering what is Beta-endorphin? In non-scientific terms it is a naturally occurring chemical that is released and makes us feel good. Ever hear of the “runner’s high”? Beta-endorphin. “When your beta-endorphin is low, you feel depressed, impulsive . . . you may be touchy and tearful.” (Kathleen DesMaisons).

Bad news is that you can’t buy it. Good news is that you have full access to it in your body already and it is FREE! Take a walk, exercise, meditate, do yoga, dance, have sex, listen to music, spend time with people you love . . . all of these can boost your beta-endorphin levels.

Getting Off Your Seat
Perhaps the most difficult part of exercising is getting up, getting started. Just because you want to exercise doesn’t mean you will. Do you know what motivates you? Create support for yourself…involve your friends, family, spouse. Join or start a walking club. Walk to work or park a few blocks from work and walk the rest of the way. Schedule it and plan around it. What time of day are you most lagging? Can you exercise then?

When I lived in Portland, a co-worker and I began to exercise together on our lunch. We ran/ walked/ stretched for a half hour, got dressed back into our dress skirts and jackets and ate a quick bagged lunch from home. Was it ideal? No. Would we have liked more time or a shower? Of course, but we did it. We motivated each other and half the time I showed up because I knew she’d be there.

What are you waiting for?

Be Creative
You don’t need to belong to Bally’s Gym with top-notch equipment to exercise. When completing my Master’s degree in Arizona I needed to get in shape for an upcoming outdoor job. I was flat broke so I used my resources. I walked on sidewalks and along the canal, did step-ups on stairs, did dips between the kitchen counter and a stool, push-ups on the floor (or steps at first), did pull-ups on the beams of the carport. There are a million variations you can try from shoveling snow to mall walking, so have fun with it!

Remind yourself. When you feel good after exercising, take 5 minutes and write down 5 benefits that you notice. Next time, write 5 more and so on. Then on the days when your motivation is lagging, pull out your list as a reminder and get going.

Also mix it up. No matter how much you love a particular activity, boredom is inevitable if you do the same thing every day. (Your muscles will get “bored” too.) If you are unsure what else to do, consult a trainer, take a class, get a book from the library or ask a friend for new ideas.

Finally, whenever possible, get outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air. 10 minutes in the sun provides enough Vitamin D to give us our daily dose and boost our mood. If you live somewhere with limited winter sun (hello Rochester!), then try a full spectrum light in one or more of your lamps. These closely simulate natural light and are a good short-term solution.

Have fun and happy mood and exercise to you!!