Exercise Helps You Control Your Emotions
Exercise is one of the best time tested techniques to help reduce stress and anxiety.
That’s far from everything it can do, though. I repeatedly find research and news about the health and brain benefits of exercise.
Yet another study has surfaced that reveals that short bouts of exercise can help you maintain your calm throughout the course of the day.
I’m not just talking about exercise’s ability to clear your mind and put you in a better mood. Even though research has shown it to be an effective and straightforward way to help you blow off some steam.
Researchers from Harvard – whose work was published in the journal Cognition and Emotion – recently tested exercise’s effect on the emotional impact of negative events.
More specifically, they found that acute exercise can help you regulate your mood and boost your resilience to emotional situations before they happen. It seems that doing a little jogging or biking in the morning before work, may help keep you from yelling at your boss.
Playing With Emotions
Participants completed online surveys prior to the study to determine moods, anxiety, and emotional response tendencies. They were then split into two groups before watching a clip from a sad movie. One group completed 30 minutes of moderate jogging, and the other 30 minutes of stretching.
After watching the clip they answered questionnaires about their emotional experiences before watching a second movie clip from the comedy When Harry Met Sally.
The researchers noticed that people who said they had trouble making themselves feel better emotionally had stronger negative emotions when viewing the sad movie clip. Which is what most people would expect, including the researchers.
However, those that performed aerobic exercise before watching the clip, reported less sadness at the end of the study than those that had stretched. The authors write:
“Participants who exercised were better able to overcome or compensate for initial difficulties drawing on regulatory strategies and with goal-directed cognition and behavior in comparison to non-exercisers.”
What’s Going On?
Exercise can affect your body and brain chemistry in a pretty significant way. These neurochemicals play a big role in helping you control your emotions and affecting your mood. In both the short and long run.
It can boost levels of endorphins, which have linked with a increase in moods and relaxation. Endorphins are also associated with the “runner’s high”.
It can also signal the body to produce other brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine which also help fight stress. Exercise also naturally reduces stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol in the body.
Calmer Emotions From Regular Exercise
Exercise, however, could have more than just a short term effect for controlling your emotions.
Recent studies in mice have shown that physical activity helps generate new neurons that release a neurotransmitter – GABA – which prevents the excessive firing of other neurons.
In short, these neurons help keep the brain from becoming overexcited during times of stress.
The Sweat Effect
If you’ve had a horrible day, full of horrible people, bosses, and situations, by all means go exercise to relieve some of that stress.
But exercising before your day start could actually help to keep your emotions positive. It also helps us stay resilient in the face of stress and unwelcome circumstances. This research may give us a clue as to why – it reduces the emotional blunt of negative events.
Exercise has tons of benefits for your brain. But if you find yourself needing just a bit of extra control over your emotions, exercise is a great way to help maintain your composure.