Search “diet” on an image site like Shutterstock and you’ll be presented with dozens of photos of miserable looking people surviving on rabbit food or exercising until they’re exhausted. But is this really what eating healthy and regularly exercising does to the body and brain? A new Shape magazine article says no, and we wholeheartedly agree. Turning the corner with your health is not only a cause for celebration, it will literally make your mind and body want to celebrate.
Exercise boosts happiness. Study after study shows that exercise is such a powerful mood booster that it’s actually effective at combatting depression and anxiety. This isn’t necessarily a dose-response thing—exercising more doesn’t mean you’ll feel better and better, so be sure to listen to your body. But do be sure you move regularly every day, whether it’s walking around the neighborhood or heading to the gym. Pay attention to how different workouts make you feel. If you feel blessed out after yoga and energized after Cross Fit, plan accordingly so you get the mood boost you need when you need it!
Unhealthy foods make you cranky. A lot of unhealthy foods wreak havoc on blood sugar, sending your spirits and energy levels up for a few brief minutes then quickly dropping back down. That’s why you may feel good while you’re eating something like an afternoon snack of cookies but then find you feel tired and hungry about an hour later. What’s more, ingredients like trans fatty acids have been linked to aggression and depression. During the first few days of healthy eating you may miss the taste of unhealthy foods, particularly if they were part of an actual habit–the handful of chips you have with lunch or the cupcake you’re convinced you deserve after each workout. But after less than a week of avoiding these foods four taste buds will forget what they’re “missing” and your cravings will go away.
Being outside is a mind-body win. You know that simply being outside makes you feel good. Scientists have actually proven this: Per Shape, one study found that walking outside was more restorative than walking inside. And it’s not all mental: Nature is good for your body too. Another study found that people who exercise outside do so for longer than people who exercise inside which means being outside naturally helps you get in better shape. As temps start to warm up take advantage of the fresh air and get outside.
Healthy foods make you happy. We don’t mean that eating a salad will make you giddy (although good for you if it does!). More that eating a health blend of protein, fiber, fat, and carbs will keep your energy levels and mood stable. Without any spikes and crashes your body and brain will feel a lot better all day long. But that’s not all. Omega-3 fatty acids appear to have a substantial affect on how you feel, making you feel more calm and less anxious. Which sounds pretty happy to us. (Thus the book The Happiness Diet.
As you feel stronger and slimmer, you feel better. We could definitely cite a dozen studies that show this but we don’t really need to–we all know that when our clothes fit well, when we aren’t getting fatigued while walking up the stairs, and when we feel that sense of accomplishment that comes from following through on good, healthy behaviors we feel a lot better in our brains and bodies.