By now you might have heard that physical activity boosts the “feel good” brain chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins kick in after you push through the discomfort of the activity you’re doing and keeps you doing it; the endorphin effect lasts during and after exercise.
Did you know that physical activity also boosts serotonin, a chemical described by Psychology Today as the molecule of will power, of delaying gratification? Serotonin also gives you confidence and your levels of it rise when you’re also feeling confident and socially dominant ( status = preservation of your gene pool). * Status can mean your belief in yourself OR the belief that others find you important. The first can boost you and the latter can weaken you if you depend on it*. Dips in serotonin can bring out the surly, insecure, tired, impulsive side of you so it makes sense that you want yours to rely more on how you feel about yourself than on how others feel about you.
The good news is that you DON’T have to run to get the effect of an exercise “high” and that being active with someone can bring you closer to that person. These chemicals explain the entire “Bachelor/Bachelorette” TV show to a T: put attractive people together, get them active and sharing experiences, fire up their reward (dopamine) and oxytocin (trust) centers and voila: the recipe for attachment and perceived joy. Here are some activities you can do with the people you want to bond with and create realistic joy.
Walking A neighborhood walk after dinner with those you care about not only benefits your body but can give you an opportunity to chat or simply enjoy each other’s company. This is a great habit to start with young families and walking meetings are also a great idea for corporate offices. The pace you set can be brisk or leisurely depending on how hard you want to work and an app like MapMyRun or Moves can help keep you on track with your steps (10, 000 per day is recommended).
Bowling Bring bowling back a s a fun family and friendship bonding activity!Laughing together and encouraging each other boosts dopamine, serotonin AND burns calories.
Dancing Okay this one is for those of us who LIKE to dance 🙂 Dancing of all forms can torch serious calories and when you’re dancing with people who want to be with you and enjoy what you’re doing then yes, you will be a dopamine and serotonin releasing fool. Why not sign up for a new class with a friend or family member?
A new and challenging activity Working through something new and unknown can foster strong bonds. It doesn’t have to be sky diving ( it could!). it could be the previously mentioned dance class (try a new one!), a strenuous form of exercise you’ve been interested in (keep it safe, people); or a race of some sort.
So there you have it: a few new ways to think outside of what you’re doing and to boost your body and your interpersonal bonds. Get closer to your goal and closer to your loved ones at the same time!