Training for Happiness

Posted in Announcements Blog Fitness Fitness & Wellness Corner News

By Maegen C. Stoner, Director of Fitness & Wellness
February Fitness & Wellness Corner

Have you ever thought about including happiness exercises as part of your training? Seems a little out of place, right (Archer 2019)? Well I’m here to tell you that happiness certainly can be a part of your regimen if you let it! Let’s shift our mentality to training happier 🙂

Defining “happiness”:

  • Happiness in life includes life satisfaction, optimism, positive feelings, and purpose.
  • Daniel Khaneman offers four levels of analysis for identifying, measuring, and evaluating happiness (Archer 2019):
    • Emotions- feelings that are experiential and “in the moment”
    • Sensations- physical feelings and the memories of them
    • Personality traits- a person’s innate response to life events
    • Well-being- general feelings about happiness and life overall
  • Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile” (Archer 2019).
  • Martin Seligman, PhD, utilizes PERMA as a theoretical perspective (Archer 2019)
    • P- Positive
    • E- Emotion
    • R- Relationships
    • M- Meaning
    • A- Accomplishment

There are additional causes that directly relate to happiness. Most of us perceive that many external factors like money, Instagram likes or followers, popularity, or exotic vacations affect how happy we are or can be. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy (one of the main components in defining happiness). More material goods doesn’t always equal more happiness. Also, it’s important to remember that just because someone is considered happy or a happy person, it doesn’t mean that they don’t experience negative emotions, loss, or disappointments. Most often, they possess positive feelings, thought processes, and strategies to navigate life when they face obstacles or challenges (Archer 2019).

  1. Genetics- determine 50% of our basic temperament. Characteristics like cheerfulness, enthusiasm, optimism, gratitude, hopefulness, and a sense of humor can influence happiness (Archer 2019).
  2. Circumstances- influence 10%. Life events, life status, and material well-being can contribute to this category (Archer 2019).
  3. Efforts- make-up 40%.Our day-to-day behaviors, what we think, personal goals, and dedication to meaningful causes can all play a key part (Archer 2019).

We can’t control genetics, but our everyday efforts are adaptable!

Although scientists have yet to determine a direct causal link between happiness and health, multiple research studies have shown a relationship between psychological well-being and positive health outcomes; stronger immune system, fewer chronic-pain conditions, reduced heart risk, and prolonged life (Archer 2019). There is additional research which presents that happier people engage in a greater number of healthy lifestyle behaviors (Archer 2019). According to the ‘positive feedback loop’ or ‘upward spiral of happiness’, more positive emotions predispose us to make more positive actions, which leads to greater happiness and well-being (Archer 2019). 

Exercise plays a key role in soothing symptoms from anxiety and depression. In a meta-analysis that included over 100 studies, investigators found that leisure-time activity and active transportation were positively associated with mental health benefits (Archer 2019). This suggests that activities which elevate happiness are a potential avenue to boost participation in physical activity and ultimately improve overall health (Archer 2019).

So let’s focus on bringing joy, laughter, and fun to fitness!

  • Target intrinsic motivation.
    • Placing a dominance on extrinsic factors can set us up for disappointment. Align your focus on the impact you’d like exercise to have on your life or how you expect or want your life to be different when you accomplish your fitness goal(s) (Archer 2019).
  • Check your “why”.
    • Did your effort during the workout match your why? Try not to view exercise as a chore, rather an opportunity to grow and support a new mindset (Archer 2019).
  • Acknowledge your accomplishments!
    • Be your own hype girl/guy! Believe in your ability to affect your personal change. Celebrate completing a session and giving what you can on that day (side note-not everyday is going to be the best, but celebrate your efforts even when they may seem minimal in comparison to the big picture-small steps y’all).
  • Thank yourself. Practice gratitude.
    • You showed up. Appreciate the strength your body possesses. Find joy in the movement your body is able to perform.
  • Bring the beats.
    • Music is a great way to get in the groove. It can also affect mood, heart rate, and energize your session.

Join me in making 2020 the year we train happier!

Archer, Shirley. “Training Happy for Positive Behavioral Change.” ACE Fitness Journal (2019): 24-34.

This blog post was written to provide educational information only. This article should not be used as a substitute or a replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have questions or concerns about your personal health, you should always consult with your physician. It is recommended that you consult with your physician or health care professional before beginning any fitness regimen to determine if it is suitable for your needs. The use of any information provided by this article is solely at your risk.