Our third activity will be exercise and even if you exercise regularly already, take at least ten minutes during your regimen to still your mind and focus your intention entirely on what you’re doing in the moment. And, here are some characteristics of exercise that research (Berger & Motl, 2001) tells us increases its ability to positively alter our mood and sense of wellbeing:
- Rhythmic abdominal breathing – it’s not as important that the exercise is aerobic as it is that it produces this type of breathing so that walking, running, yoga, swimming or tai chi could be equally effective in enhancing mood.
- Non-competitive focus – if you’re focused on winning, training to win or evaluating performance rather than on the actual physical activity itself, exercise is less likely to result in a sense of psychological wellbeing
- Closed environments – exercise performed in settings that promote predictability – like a track, a pool or a golf course – is more likely to produce a sense of wellbeing since participants are more free to let their minds wander and free associate while exercising instead of having to focus on changes in the environment
- Repetitive, rhythmic motions – again, when engaged in activities that don’t require moment-to-moment focus on the motions being performed (running or walking as opposed to racquetball), participants are more likely to be able to engage in more meditative thought
- Duration, frequency and intensity – exercise works best for improving mood and a sense of wellbeing when it lasts at least 20 minutes, is of a moderate intensity level and is somewhat frequent (2-3 times a week)
- Enjoyment – this one is probably the most important; if you don’t like an exercise, you’re not likely to keep doing it and benefiting from it in the long term