5 Ways Physical Fitness Will Get You Out of a Funk (plus a Bonus)

05/07/2016 02:45 pm ET
Photograph by Yadin Hasson

After a year and a half of going to therapy twice a week I was done with the genre. I had walked into the psychologist’s clinic a crying mess, with no understanding of why and how I got there and where I needed to go. But that’s the topic of a lot of other articles, not this one. At the end of the process I had answers to all of those questions, but was still feeling blah. I mean, I was ok, functioning well with newly found direction and purpose. But I still wasn’t the person my friends used to have to tell to calm down all the time because I was too enthusiastic or excited or determined. Or just plain loud. I wanted that person to come back. That woman who was the real me, but who’d been covered by years of going through the paces and the fog of having four kids in seven years. And the marriage I had to leave. And the mistakes I’d made and the therapy I had to endure (I hated therapy, even though it worked wonders for me).

I was a chubby teenager but I always did a little sport. Never a lot, never very good at it. I was on the swimming team at the YMCA; I played a little tennis on the grass in high school. I have zero trophies on my shelf, proof of my mediocrity. In those years I did sport because my friends were doing it and it was better than hanging out at the mall.

I was not, however, totally oblivious to the physical benefits of being fit. I even have an honest-to-goodness Bachelor of Applied Science in Physical Therapy. But I wanted, no needed, something new, something to excite me, to challenge me and bring back my old, sometimes unbearably optimistic, self. It wasn’t going to come from step-aerobics, that’s for sure. I found my new-old self in CrossFit, but any exercise (I don’t mean playing chess, or bridge, which I know are considered sports, but not for the purposes of this article) will give you the same results if you do it at least three times a week. I know that my well being today is thanks to multiple factors. The simplest, most universal of these is getting physically fit. 

I’d like to share with you 5 ways taking charge of your physical health will make you happier: 

1.     You’ll know that you can do anything: Your perception on what you believe is possible will change. More often than not I find myself arguing with my coach as to how to do the workout of the day. I choose a weight or a number of repetitions or a time frame, and then she increases the weight, or decreases the time. Which does not make me happy. I then proceed to have a quiet conversation with myself as to should I try it, how I can’t do it, why she’s making me feel bad on purpose, why I even started this god forsaken class and lots of other rubbish. Then I do what she tells me to do. 90% of the time I completely surprise myself, surpass what I thought I could do, proving the coach right and bringing myself to a new level of awesomeness. Mastering this mind game, pushing your way through and succeeding spreads over to all areas of life. Your work will improve. You’ll be more open to trying new things. Fear of the unknown is reduced.  You really will be able to do more than you think is possible if you just go for it. Physical fitness gets credit for all of these things.

2.     Better organization and self-discipline: When faced with the upcoming workout, no matter the length, I plan my way through it. Should I sprint, should I break up the reps, should I push my way through? This mental preparation I now apply to my work day. I push through, take scheduled rests, organize my time and make a plan for the day.

3.     Sleep better and have increased energy: According to The National Sleep Foundation, who did a study of over 2,600 men and women, 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise will improve most people’s quality of sleep. They also said that people reported feeling less sleepy during the day, compared with those with less physical activity. You’ll be more alert and be able to concentrate better.

4.     You will look better, which will make you really happy: Duh. This is obviously a no-brainer result.  And it has nothing to do with weight. Being active helps you to move your body more freely. And your skin starts to glow a bit, which is really nice. After a workout your blood is flowing, you are sweaty and hot; you go for a shower and feel amazingly refreshed. The same clothes you wore yesterday will look better on you today because you feel freer in your body. Your coworkers will tell you how good you look today. It’s already worth it!

5.     Lower your stress levels: The endorphins produced when exercising act as natural painkillers. That, together with your better sleep and lower fatigue will decrease your tension and put you in a good mood. What’s not to like about that?

Bonus positive effect of getting physically fit: Your personal life will be spiced up! When you are more confident, sleep better, are less stressed and look and feel great, then of course your time between the sheets will be better than ever before. You thought it was pretty good already, now you’ll be blown away. I don’t know where on the physical fitness spectrum you are, but if you haven’t started, now’s the time! Enjoy!

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