Happiness, Stress, Pilates and Me!

True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are ever united.

–Wilhelm Von Humboldt

Busy, crazy lives.  It seems to be the norm these days.  We work hard to be able to buy the things that make us happy to reduce the stress that these full lives bring.  But does that really make us happy?

Harvard happiness scientist Shawn Achor says we have it all backwards. If we make getting that promotion and buying nice things our goal, we will find we will never fully achieve happiness as the goal will keep moving.  For example, you have a sales goal and you work to achieve it.  Once you meet it, the goal increases and the goalposts move.   Or your goal may be to buy a home.  Once you have that home, you start looking to upgrade into a bigger, nicer home. We eventually adapt to having that object of our desire. It becomes normal to have it.  We then move to desiring something else new and different.  We are forever chasing that elusive goal and therefore forever chasing our happiness.  Instead, Achor suggests we do the things that make us happy first.  Happy people tend to be more productive and more satisfied with their day-to-day lives, increasing the odds of success.

But what makes us happy?  This can be different for different people.  However, research shows that once we have that hard-earned money, what we spend it on can make a difference.  A study at San Francisco State University tells us that money spent on experiences brings more happiness than money spent on things.  The joy and excitement of a new purchase can quickly fade.  The memories and learning garnered from experiences can last a lifetime.  People become happier when focused on the value of an experience rather than focusing on the monetary value of an item.  Experiences become a part of you; no matter how much you love an item, it will always be separate from you.

“We consume experiences directly with other people. And after they’re gone, they’re part of the stories that we tell to one another.”

— Dr. Thomas Gilovich

It has long been known that exercise can raise feelings of positivity by releasing endorphins into the body.  These endorphins not only reduce the perception of pain, but also trigger positive feelings in the body.  Achor has noted that exercising for as little as 15 minutes per day can be equivalent to taking antidepressants for the first six months with the bonus of decreased risk of relapse. Exercise not only affects you physically, but it trains your brain to realize that what you do matters. This can bring a deeper sense of satisfaction.   Researchers at Yale and Oxford have discovered that exercise involving social interactions can take this one step further.  Team sports as well as other fitness activities that involve others can increase the positive effects on mental health. The combination of the physical effects of exercise on happiness along with the social aspects of the shared experience when exercising compounds the happiness effect.

The community aspect of Pilates is a strong one.  Working out in classes helps participants support each other and increases the positive effects of exercise both mentally and physically.  It is so much more than a workout for your muscles.  Pilates teaches you to make a mind/body connection and to use your mind to control your muscles.  This learning stays with you even after you leave the studio, helping you to make more mindful movements and giving you the success that feeds your feelings of accomplishment.   And those feelings of accomplishment help increase your happiness!  At Archer Pilates, we encourage the community bonds that keep our clients feeling good about themselves.  Our goal is to have you leave the studio feeling stronger, accomplished and smiling.  So the next time you are in the Culver City, Westchester, Playa Vista or West Los Angeles areas, stop on in and see for yourself why our clients are smiling when they walk out the door.  Not in our neighborhood? Wherever you live, be sure to find a Pilates studio near you and see for yourself how this vibrant community can help enhance your happy.

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