When you’re having a bad day, probably one of the last things you want to do or feel like doing is exercise. But, believe it or not, that may be the best way to find your happiness zone.  There is a strong link between exercise and an improvement in mood and well-being. Go for a 30 minute walk whenever you’re feeling depressed and unhappy. You’ll notice your mood starting to increase throughout the walk. As you get back, you may notice that you’re feeling even happier.

This increase of happiness and wellbeing after exercise is caused by two different mechanisms in our body. The first is that exercise causes the release of brain chemicals like endorphins and other mood enhancers. This happens just a few minutes after you work out and the effect can last for a good 12 hours. The second part to the equation is that exercise also helps reduce the levels of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline in the body. That means you’ll instantly feel less stressed. This one-two punch can have a powerful effect on how you feel. Something as simple as a brisk walk can help you feel better almost immediately.

For best results you want to exercise a few times per week. Take some time during your lunch break to go for a walk or get a quick workout in before you head to work in the morning. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you start moving around and get that blood pumping. Pick activities you enjoy that you will stick with. During the summer, one of my favorite things to do is swim with my Labrador, Riley, or take him for a walk.

In addition to the everyday mood boost you will get from exercising regularly, there are quite a few additional long-term benefits. Exercise is good for your health and you will start to get fitter and even slimmer and more toned if you stick with it. This in turn will improve how you feel and how you feel about yourself. That added confidence can be a great additional mood booster.

For best results, try to get as much exercise as you can outside. Fresh air and sunshine add to a feeling of wellbeing. Come up with some simple things you can start doing right now. Maybe it’s going for a walk each afternoon. Maybe it’s taking up jogging. Maybe it’s signing up for a yoga or Pilate’s class at your local community center, or maybe it’s joining a basketball team. Another one of the things I love to do is just dance. Yeah really! Turn on some music that you love and just start moving. You don’t have to be a ball room dance queen or king, or a master of pop. Just do what is fun for you.

It doesn’t matter what you choose to do as long as you make it a goal to get more active and move around. Switch it up and plan a group hike for the weekend, or dust off your bike. There’s a lot of fun ways to move around and enjoy the world around you.