5 Simple Exercises To Spark Happiness

During uncertain times – like right now, hello! – anxiety, stress, grief and fear are emotions that creep in way too easily. Happiness, calm and energy? A little harder to summon at the best of times. This is where exercise in all its many forms can make a serious difference, boosting our endorphins whether or not we are able to (or actually want to) leave the house.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re into sweat-dripping HIIT sessions or something more low-key. High-intensity exercise releases the aforementioned body’s feel-good chemicals, resulting in the “runner’s high” that joggers report. But for most of us, the real value is in low-intensity exercise sustained over time. That kind of activity spurs the release of proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections. The improvement in brain function makes you feel better. In fact, studies show that mild physical activity can bolster feelings of well-being just as effectively as vigorous exercise and that just one yoga session a week can help reduce depression symptoms by up to 50 percent.

Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises don’t have to take a lot of time out of your day. It’s really just about setting aside some time to pay attention to your breath, and harnessing the significant effects it can have on your system and mood overall. Belly breathing can help you use your diaphragm properly, and ais best practiced when you’re feeling rested.

Alternate nostril breathing, known as nadi shodhana pranayama in Sanskrit, is a breathing practice for relaxation that is popular among yogis that has been shown to lower heart rate. If you really want to go big, ‘Lion’s Breath’ is an energising yoga breathing practice that is said to relieve tension in your chest and face. You can find some great how-to’s for all of the above online, like this one by Yoga with Adriene.

Pilates

Designed to stimulate the body, train the muscles and soothe the mind, Pilates focuses on stretching and strengthening the muscles, and improving overall body alignment. It may sound a little intimidating, but it’s an accessible way to build strength in your core for better posture, balance and flexibility. Many key Pilates moves require no gear, and are simple enough to try almost anywhere with little risk of injury. Starting with the basics is always a great idea, like the foundation moves outlined here.

Yoga

When you’re cocooning indoors, it’s a great time to roll out your yoga mat and discover the joy that for thousands of years has hooked people around the globe. The beauty of yoga is that you don’t have to be a yogi or yogini to reap the benefits. Whether you are young or old, overweight or fit, yoga has the power to calm the mind and strengthen the body. Don’t be intimidated by yoga terminology, fancy studios and complicated poses. Yoga is for everyone and using apps like Glo, it will be easy to identify early on which style is for you.

Running

Running is enjoyed by millions because it’s good for your body and mind and requires very little equipment. All you need is a good pair of running shoes and the willingness to get started. It’s important to start out easy and build up gradually so you avoid injury, perhaps starting your running program by combining your runs with intervals of walking. For many new runners, this is the easiest way to build endurance with less stress on the joints and a manageable intensity level. Simply start with one minute of running and one minute of walking, and then try to increase the running intervals.

Foam rolling

Like a DIY massage, foam rolling helps injury prevention by maintaining muscle length and remedying tension and tightness, and also helps with mobility and overall well-being. Not just for avid exercisers, foam rolling is great for people who sit at a desk all day, have poor posture and even joint issues. Explore the work and routines of Goop-favourite Lauren ‘Lo’ Roxburgh, a bodyworker, trainer and author who is a pro at all things related to fascia, alignment, movement, and foam rolling.