Smile AM Fitness: Exercise for Joy, Not Stress

Smile AM

Exercise can help alleviate stress and give you an AM Smile--but it doesn't have to be strenuous! Walking two miles daily is enough to lower cortisol levels and boost feelings of happiness, hope, connection, and courage.

As you train for your next race, try smiling as much as possible - even when it's difficult! A Smile AM at specific points during training or races such as at interval finishes or ascending steep inclines.

1. Find Joy in Physical Activity

Exercise should bring joy, not be seen as an obligation. Whether you're struggling to find enjoyment in your workouts or are just beginning, there are various things you can do to make physical activity an enjoyable experience; such as setting realistic goals, creating social activities around it, exploring nature and adding playful elements while practicing mindful movement.

Establish Your Why

In order to gain the most enjoyment out of exercise, it's essential that you understand why you engage in physical activity in the first place. A common misstep people make is viewing exercise as a means of weight loss or compensation for unhealthy diet choices - this makes exercise seem less like something fun and more like punishment than something to acknowledge the unique power and beauty of their body.

Finding your why can be tricky, but one way of making the journey simpler is to focus on how exercise makes you feel - be it happiness, energy, excitement or calmness. Take note of these positive sensations during exercise sessions to feel more connected to both yourself and the purpose of exercise. This will enable you to realize what drives you forward.

Making Exercise a Social Experience

Research shows that happiness is tied to meaningful relationships, including those in your fitness community. Forming relationships with fitness friends and instructors can make workouts more enjoyable, leading to greater consistency with fitness goals - ClassPass data shows you are 44% more likely to keep a new fitness regimen if taking classes together with someone.

Are You Open to Joyful Movement

Exploring joy in exercise doesn't need to involve rigid and regimented workout routines; joyful movement embraces all forms of physical activity with no one right or wrong way for moving your body. Your preferences may change over time - perhaps you prefer running one day and dancing the next.

2. Find Joy in Your Workout

Adults often develop negative attitudes toward exercise - they dread it, view it as a chore and think they must punish their bodies to shed extra weight. Yet finding joy in working out doesn't need to be complicated: all it requires is shifting your mindset in a more positive direction.

An integral component of enjoying physical activity is finding what kind of physical activity makes you happy. Recall an instance when your workout brought joy -- was it with friends, on a team, outdoors or involving particular sports - then use that experience as the source of guidance in finding joy during workouts.

Once you've identified your preferred form of movement, it's essential to integrate it into your daily routine. If making time for full workouts is impossible, try making small changes that add up: taking the stairs instead of driving or having walking meetings for your business could do the trick, taking your dog on longer morning walks, playing catch with a friend or signing up for dance class could all count.

At your workouts, it can also help to focus on feeling pleasure instead of counting calories or measuring progress. Reminding yourself that each workout is an opportunity for growth will increase enjoyment - and may help make exercising an integral part of life rather than an extra burden.

If you're feeling especially adventurous, why not team up with a partner for an enjoyable movement session? Studies show that exercising with someone increases motivation, performance and mood enhancement - plus having someone hold you accountable can keep your fitness goals on track!

If you can't find anyone to play with, try joining a group fitness class designed with groups in mind (think yoga, zumba, and HIIT). Or go for a roller coaster ride; take trapeze lessons; or give pole dancing a go - just remember to set a nonjudgmental attitude by telling yourself "it's okay if I look silly". You won't regret doing anything!

3. Find Joy in Your Friends

Studies show that we experience greater joy when we're with friends, which explains why ClassPass data indicates people are 45% more likely to stick to their workout routine when taking classes with friends. Last month, Smile Train joined forces with online fitness platform Strava and virtual cycling studio Zwift to encourage their users to log their exercise for children undergoing cleft surgeries; every three minutes participants rode, an image of an untreated child appeared on screen so participants saw their sweat have greater purpose.

Try to find ways to contribute as much as you can to other people's happiness, whether through the Danish practice of "freudenfreude," which takes pleasure in another person's success, is linked with greater well-being. That might mean congratulating a friend on their achievement or simply telling them how happy you are for them; after all, joy shared is joy doubled!

4. Find Joy in Yourself

Change in lifestyle can help you lose weight or find happiness, whether the goal is weight loss or joy. Exercise, healthy nutrition, and mindful practices like priming, meditation, or journaling can all be great ways to feel good on a consistent basis - although finding joy may require dedication and self-love to reach its destination.

Joy can come from simple pleasures such as lazing on a warm afternoon in the sunshine, or it could come in the form of supportive relationships and discovering purpose. Research shows that those who make time for themselves, even if it means only two hours daily, tend to enjoy greater overall well-being than those who don't. So try adding activities to your routine that bring you pleasure like trying a new recipe, playing a game with friends, or spending quality time with family - these can all bring joy!

As important, it's also essential that you surround yourself with supportive people who can lift your mood and remind you of all that's good in life. That is why it's crucial to avoid negative influences that don't work towards bringing joy into your life - the old saying "misery loves company" rings true; happiness can become difficult to attain when around people who cannot help but remain pessimistic.

An effective way to feel good is through smiling. A genuine smile activates the brain's reward circuit and can have an immediate effect on your mood. In stressful moments, smiling can release feel-good neurotransmitters that release feel-good neurotransmitters that can even relieve pain.

Smile at yourself in the mirror or play a phone game that makes you laugh or creates the face of someone who appears happy, or train your face to smile more frequently with the new Nintendo DS handheld machine game released this week in Japan - it provides training exercises such as twisting mouths, dropping jaws and toning facial muscles for an enhanced and brighter smile.

RIDE for Smiles was an online bike ride held through the fitness app Zwift that encouraged participants to smile for three minutes during each workout in order to raise money for children with cleft lips and palate. Participants were reminded to smile frequently throughout life, and it was inspiring seeing so many do so during RIDE for Smiles!


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