Statistically speaking today is the most miserable day of the year. Some combination of foul weather, post-holiday come down, and cratering motivation make the third Monday in January the grimmest of the grim when it comes to our collective mood. Researchers have dubbed it 'Blue Monday.'
Good thing science has also discovered an easy way to fight back against the gloom.
10 minutes to a less depressing Monday.
We all know that exercise is good for our bodies as well as our moods, but what kind of exercise exactly is best if your aim is to cheer yourself up? That was the question a group of researchers recently asked when they set out to review 38 past studies on the effects of exercise on our mental state.
If you want to feel less blue, do you have to put in a hard hour on the treadmill? Twenty minutes in the weight room? Do wind sprints until you're near collapse? Happily, the uncovered that while more research on the subject is definitely needed, getting the mood boosting effects of exercise doesn't require fitness heroics.
First, the scientists compared aerobic activities like walking and jogging that get your heart pumping with anaerobic ones like weightlifting that challenge your muscles more than your heart. Anaerobic exercise, they found, seems to be better if you main aim is to feel happier.
"The beneficial mood effects of aerobic exercise are less consistent than is found with anaerobic exercise, and anaerobic exercise appears especially to be more beneficial for beating stress and anxiety," reports the British Psychological Society Research Digest.
Great, then strength-based workouts are your best bet. Do you need to engage in Schwarzenegger-like feats of extreme exertion to see benefits? Nope, the study review in fact found that moderate intensity is best to improve your mood (quite probably because hefting massive barbells until your muscles scream is not everyone's idea of a happy time).
And finally, how about duration? The news here is sunny as well. "Ten minutes often appears sufficient to achieve gains in mood (although one study found that 30 minutes was required to achieve feelings of increased vigor). Overall, there was little evidence that going beyond 30 minutes leads to any further gains in mood, which is good to know for anyone who struggles to find much time for exercise in their daily schedule," explains BPS.
So just to review: if you, like a great many other people, are feeling down in the dumps these days, then the scientific prescription for a maximally mood-boosting workout is just 10-30 minutes of moderate anaerobic exercise. How incredibly doable! At least that's one positive bit of news on this otherwise depressing day.
Other ideas for couch potatoes
Not feeling like exercising today? Don't despair. There are plenty of other tips and tricks from experts to improve your mood, from simple mindset shifts to pleasant activities like creative projects or getting together with friends.