THE BLOG
03/06/2014 09:39 pm ET Updated May 06, 2014

Don't Decide If You're an Optimist or a Pessimist Until You Try This

Getting divorced was like being pushed off a cliff in slow motion.

I hadn't seen it coming, didn't want it, and could've sworn it was the worst thing that ever happened to me.

In one moment all the labels fell off. I didn't have a business card with a title on it since I was between jobs, and I wasn't about to look for one in a town I had no plans to live in anymore. You couldn't call me Mrs. Somebody, not for much longer. Even mail addressed to "Resident" wouldn't apply, and there was no forwarding address to give the post office yet.

So naturally, I'd never felt better in my life.

It took me years to realize, but running was the reason. I'd only run sporadically until then, nothing to hook me on the psychological advantages of it. But in the month before my divorce, I ran five miles every other day.

I rarely made it through those five miles without crying. When the pole vaulters from the local high school were in the fieldhouse with me, practicing on the equipment in the middle of the track, I hoped the tears would look like sweat.

After a few weeks of hard workouts during what was in theory the lowest point of my life, I felt better than I ever had. To the extent anything has worked since, I attribute it to three words: running is magic.

A couple of years later, when I'd mostly healed and was packing up and moving to still another town -- but this time for my dream job -- I felt blah. "What's going on?" I wondered. Here I was, about to become the host of a radio talk show -- something I thought was going to take ten years to pull off but had only taken two -- and I wasn't wild with excitement. That didn't make sense. Maybe what happened with my ex had changed the part of me that would ever be that excited about anything, and I wasn't even sure how I felt about that.

In about as much time as it took you to read the last paragraph I also thought, "No. Go back to running before you decide how you feel." So I did. I ran hard for five miles and by the time I finished I felt terrific.

I resolved to remember how important it is to work out consistently. It's the best health insurance money can't buy.

It used to be when I was pressed for time, exercise was the first thing to go. Many years later -- having unlearned and relearned the joy of working out consistently -- I'm proud to report that even in the most stressful times, exercise is the last thing to go.

You don't have to run. Play tennis, cross-country ski, meet a friend for racquetball during your lunch hour. Find a way to work your body hard on a consistent basis and don't decide if you're an optimist or a pessimist until that's the routine. You may not believe how much your outlook on life changes.

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