Work It Out—But Choose The Right Kind Of Exercise
At any road race, you'll find dozens of running enthusiasts who have successfully kicked bad habits (as well as chronic bad moods) by following a regular training schedule. And intense physical activity has been shown in studies to raise serotonin and dopamine levels and lower the stress response. But while distance running, biking and swimming can boost general mental wellness, these solitary, repetitive activities can be the worst thing when you're dwelling on something specific and unchangeable. They can provide you with uninterrupted time to obsess, and that may reinforce negative thought patterns. During those times, consider seeking out physical activity that makes your brain work as hard as your body, like a class (Spinning, Zumba, Bikram or Ashtanga yoga), a group sport (community soccer, pickup basketball) or a team activity (rowing, a running group, a master's swim team). You could also try going for a meditative run, in which you focus so intently on your breathing or the rhythm of your footsteps that your mind doesn't have an opportunity to wander into a dark place.