I have friends that are perpetually positive, who always seem to glow with happiness. I also know folks who are mierable almost all the time. Today I thought about what the happy people all have in common.
Are they rolling in cash? No.
Would they qualify for People Magazine's World's 50 Sexiest People? No.
Do they have perfect families and careers? No.
Do they have problems? You bet. The three happiest people I know well have problems just like the rest of us. Health issues, family problems, money problems, relationship problems, no one is immune. But they play the hand they're dealt and find a way to smile and capture happiness.
But they all have something in common. And among the most miserable people I know? None of them share this special trait with the happy folks.
This morning, I took a look out the window and sighed, wondering when this rain would finally stop. I had to run errands and didn't feel like dealing with the downpour. But I had to send out the Father's Day cards (since mail isn't delivered on Sundays, it's a challenge for me to get cards out in time for those Sunday celebrations), and of course I had to stop at the bank, the grocery store, etc. So I put on my old running shoes (no sense in getting my newer ones wet) and a rain pullover, threw everything in my backpack and drove off.
I was itching to exercise but wasn't in the mood to try to find parking at the Y (all meters too) and exercise in the musty rooms (it's always musty in there on rainy days). After my errands, I decided do just take a walk in the park -- rain and all. Brookdale Park has smoothly paved paths, lots of trees, and is spacious and clean. So up my hood went and I started my walk. After a few minutes, I started feeling so good (it was 63 degrees, raining steadily, with no wind) that I took off my hood and started jogging. I ended up jogging for about 40 minutes and it was amazing! My mood was so high afterward, and quite frankly I'm still feeling great (the shower afterward helped too).
Sopping wet and driving home from the park, I got to thinking about the power of exercise and mood. I've blogged about this before, and this connection has been studied and reported numerous times. But it's truly amazing to experience it firsthand. I realized that exercise not only helps with mood on a short-term basis, but it appears to have lasting impact one one's entire personality.
And that is the one thing that happy people seem to have in common: they are regular exercisers.
Just from my own personal observations (no science here, just anecdotal), I realize that all of the happy people I know exercise regularaly. And, the relatively miserable people I know do not. Furthermore, exercise is not a chore for these happy people -- it is a break from the day, a time for THEM. One of my good friends starts getting really moody if she skips the gym for more than 3 consecutive days; she absolutely itches to move. And it's not just for physical reasons -- she actually gets moody and snippy if she goes too long without her gym fix!
Happiness is the ultimate goal. It is the main motivator behind most everything we do, at least to some degree. It is linked to optimal health, longevity, kindness and compassion, and doing things we find rewarding. If you feel like you're not as happy as you want to be, and you don't exercise regularly, then make a change in your life. Move your body. I challenge every one of your excuses. No time? Too many responsibilities? Too tired? Have a disability? Almost no one has a real excuse not to move their body in some way that will benefit their body and mind. I've used the excuses -- I have MS, gym memberships are expensive, I have sports injuries that sometimes make walking impossible, I have a child, I work, and the weather stinks. So what. Find a way to move. Whether it's doing jumping jacks in front of the TV in the evening, using a fancy elliptical machine at the gym, going for a bike ride, doing yoga poses in your living room, jumping rope with the kids, swimming laps in your community pool, lifting hand weights (or cans of soup!) or just walking around the block, you will benefit from this effort.