If you’re going to be sticking your bum in the air, there’s no point in being po-faced. Check out laughteryoga.co.uk, where you can sun salute with a smile.
P-E-P, pep pep! Shaking those pom poms may not appeal to everyone, but how could you not be cheered by human pyramids and spelling things out with your arms? Give cheerobics.net a whirl.
Trust us, there is nothing euphoric about pounding away on a treadmill. Instead, sign up for Parkrun. Taking place rain or shine every Saturday morning in parks around the country, it’s the perfect way to get a Vitamin D infusion (which is a key mood enhancer), socialise and work on your PB. www.parkrun.org.uk
Unleash your inner child and take a trampolining class. Boogie Bounce (boogiebounce.com) has classes all over the UK, is easy on your joints and is practically guaranteed to get you giggling.
A 2014 study published in the European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience found that exercising three times a week significantly improved the mood of patients suffering from depression, while a review by the University of Toronto of 26 years worth of studies concluded that even moderate levels of exercise like regular walking can ward off depression.
The reason why exercise boosts people’s mood is not quite as simple as hormonal response. Simply being outdoors may be part of the mood boost, as well as the lift you may get from exercising in company, or indeed the peace of being alone. And, of course, exercise will boost your confidence in the long-term. If you look better and feel healthy, you will almost certainly feel better.
‘People frequently report a response to exercise that includes feeling happy,’ says Andy Lane, Professor of Sports Psychology at the University of Wolverhampton. ‘Identifying why this occurs is not straightforward. The so-called ‘runner’s high’ is not experienced by all runners and the conditions where that occurs are not consistent.
‘The factors most likely to promote happiness include running at a moderate or low intensity, so that you are not concentrating on feedback such as painful legs. Second is to make the external environment stimulating and pleasant by running in a pleasant environment, listening to engaging music or an interesting podcast, or running in a group, where social bonds between members appear to promote a sense of wellbeing.’
Of course, when you’re already feeling down in the dumps, often the last thing you want to do is lace up your trainers. Instead, you reach for a hormonal shortcut in the form of a bar of chocolate or a large glass of red. But this usually only offers a short-term boost, a hit of dopamine that dips quickly, leaving you with sugar cravings or a sore head - not very happiness-inducing.
‘The hardest thing is getting out of the front door,’ says Professor Lane. ‘Just walk or run for five minutes, and if you want to turn around and come back at that point, then do so. Just do a Gump! Forrest Gump ran because he wanted to, until he stopped enjoying it.’
We know that regular exercise boosts our fitness levels, but can it affect our happiness levels too? Siobhan Norton investigates.
Exercise is seen as the magic bullet for just about everything – it promises to ease stress, help you sleep better, and even act as a natural painkiller. We all know about the runner’s high and the yogi’s zen. But can exercise actually make you happy?
It turns out that yes, it really can. Exercise sets off a flurry of hormonal activity in the brain, releasing pain-busting endorphins, clarifying dopamine and mood-boosting serotonin. By exercising, you’re subjecting your body to low-level stress, which your brain recognises and learns to adapt to, meaning you become better at coping with stress in general. And less stress invariably means more happiness.