Naturally Improve Your Mood by Working Out

Can Exercise Help Mood Swings?


Regular exercise is extremely beneficial to achieving optimal health. With the right type and amount of physical activity mood swings, weight management, energy levels, productivity, and various illnesses can all improve with.

When it comes to mood swings, there isn’t a better natural treatment than exercise. From the more insignificant frustrations that last only a few moments, to the most life-impacting mood swings such as bipolar disorder or suicidal depression, exercise can help you find balance and improve your mood.

Types of Mood Swings

There are different categories of mood swings based on their effects and causes. At one end of the spectrum is normal fluctuations in mood, which can be caused by tiredness, life challenges, dealing with constant change, stress from family and work, financial worries, comparing yourself to others, or too much alcohol and drug use.

Pubescent hormonal shifts, premenstrual syndrome, pregnancy or post-partum mood swings and estrogen depletion from menopause and perimenopause are also commonly related to moodiness. Mental or psychiatric illnesses that interfere with the nervous system are contributors to more severe mood swings. Attention deficit disorder, autism, major depression and anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, intermittent explosive disorder and severe substance abuse all play a major role in unhealthy mood swings. Other, often more serious causes of mood swings include brain tumors, medication side effects, and dementia.

What actually causes mood swings is typically an abnormal level of neurotransmitters in the brain. We require proper levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and GABA to sustain balanced emotions. When levels of these hormones fall outside of a healthy range, our moods tell us so.

Treating Mood Swings

There are many treatments for mood swings. Your doctor may begin with a blood test, some cognitive behavioral counseling, and possibly prescribe anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medications or hormonal treatments.

An often-successful remedy for common mood swings is working out. Not only does it calm your thinking, but the benefits of exercise balance your brain chemistry as well. After a good workout, such as moderately intense cardio and/or a full bodyweight resistance training session, the “feel-good” chemicals known as endorphins are produced and, as their name implies, they put us in a better mood. Exercise and physical activity in general produces higher levels of serotonin and helps the brain make efficient use of this mood-boosting and stabilizing neurotransmitter. By the way, ever hear of Prozac? Well, that medicine (and most other antidepressants) works in the same way, by boosting serotonin levels in the brain. The side effects of exercise don’t leave you gaining weight and negatively impacting your libido though, the way prescribed antidepressants often do.

In contrast, just like you can take too much medication for an illness, you can get too much exercise. Over-exertion can contribute to even more moodiness. You’ll know if you’ve gone too far if you’re feeling more tired than energized after working out for an excessive amount of time. You’ll also be able to recognize this if your are agitated, overly moody, can’t sleep but feel fatigued, are having a more difficult time concentrating, and/or you have a loss of appetite. Menstrual cycle irregularity, muscle strain, and feeling like you have to work too hard to get through a “normal” workout are additional signs. Bodybuilders experience moodiness that ranges from euphoria from surpassing extreme lifting goals, to depression from caloric restrictions to meet weight goals in competition.

If you experience any level of moodiness it’s a good idea to get more exercise, increase your sleep to at least 7-8 hours per night, limit your caffeine and illicit drugs and alcohol, and eat a well-balanced diet since proper nutrition helps with mood swings. Make sure you are adding serotonin-boosting Omega-3’s (found in fish and flax seed), vitamin D, and protein rich lean meats to your diet. More severe forms of moodiness will require medical/psychiatric attention.

Not all mood swings are pathological nor do they mean you have a psychiatric or mental illness. Moodiness is a part of life; happy and sad emotions come with being human. They are emotions that grow from the way you think about life’s circumstances. If you are like most folks, the normal ups and downs of life are best dealt with by changing the way you think about circumstances, events, situations and other people. So, turn the page… go for a walk or jog and get on a regular schedule of working out on your Total Gym. Then don’t sweat it, don’t regret it, move on and forget it.

Dr. Michael Mantell

Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D. has been providing psychological and coaching services for nearly 5 decades and continues to empower positive change among his global clients to enhance life in every way. He is a highly sought-after healthcare professional coach, an executive and team building consultant, and a longtime specialist in cognitive behavioral coaching.

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