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Is happiness calmness? How can exercise cultivate a calm mind?

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

When I was younger happiness tended to be a future end point, something you strived for. Now I’ve come to the conclusion that happiness is actually found in a calm mind and calm people tend to live in the moment and stay present. I value calmness above all other mental hacks now. Excitement is great but calm is bliss.

Anxiety is very common and can be horrible to live with and there is a lot of evidence that exercise can help to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and panic. Technology has brought fantastic benefits to our lives and I wouldn’t live without it but we can be overwhelmed with information and distressing news which I don’t think helps our state of mind sometimes. We are also encouraged to focus on the end result of things. Goals are productive and inspiring and once achieved can bring joy and pride but I think there also needs to be a calm and clear mind enjoying the process and being present.

I’m pretty sure that fitness and exercise has brought me a much calmer mind. Fitness forces me to be present in the moment but has also taught me to take things one step at a time and not to get too overwhelmed with the big picture. When it hurts I will tell myself to just focus on the next set of reps. When I’m facing a big challenge like the Ironman 70.3 Triathlon I did last year, I will focus on the task right in front of me. I was nervous on the start line but my attention was on the swim and not 70.3 miles.

Just get in the water and start swimming

Exercise also gets you outdoors and teaches you to control your breathing. I take a lot of photos for my social media but sometimes I will make myself switch off the phone and really notice my breathing and the nature around me. Birdsong, sunlight, colours and sounds, my favourite time of year is when Spring is dawning.

Exercise tires you out. I am rarely calmer than when I’m slumped on my sofa in front of a good film with some nice food after a tough fitness event or training session. Sleep can be deep and pleasantly dream filled after a gruelling Triathlon or Krav Maga grading.

The mental lessons I have learnt from exercise have been applied to all aspects of my life to keep it as calm as possible. When Covid hit I took it a day at a time through hard spells and tried not to catastrophise. It’s not always easy though and I would encourage anyone struggling with anxiety to make exercise a part of their therapy. If hard cardio is too much, walking is one of the happiest ways to move your body. If happy is calm then the rhythmic motion of walking alongside the beautiful Scottish landscape is surely a road to calm and therefore essential moments of happiness?

When you are present and calm it is easier to create. My best ideas often come to me during a run although not so much during burpees! Calmness brings good decisions, less envy and more play.

According to the NHS website, Stress and anxiety raise Cortisol in your blood and this can affect your health. The website recommends exercise as a stress buster. If you’re stressed and calmness alludes you, I really recommend regular exercise to help you. If you’re inexperienced or out of shape take small steps and even start with a walk or 10 minutes of exercises in the garden. I really believe that calmness is happiness and you deserve happiness in your life so make that time for yourself, it’s important.

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