Unless you are an exercise enthusiast, your workout probably doesn’t spark joy. However, a routine created by a health psychologist is designed to do just that.
Dr. Kelly McGonigal of Stanford Univ. has a TED Talk on stress with more than 22 million views. She is also the author of the book The Joy of Movement. The book looks at the science of exercise’s physical and psychological benefits for people of all ages and physical fitness levels. Additionally, she has written books about willpower and yoga for pain relief.
Dr. McGonigal has an interesting background. She teaches at Stanford in the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, the Graduate School of Business and the School of Medicine’s Health Improvement Program. Her research focuses on the psychology of compassion, mindfulness and emotional regulation.
Exercising is an essential part of life, and so is pleasure. Dr. McGonigal wanted to blend the two. It can be hard to be motivated to exercise when you don’t enjoy it. Dr. McGonigal said, “You have to move away from the motivations that a lot of other people try to force on us. Like the idea that you have to find a form of exercise that will burn the most calories or be the most efficient for warding off heart disease. Not that any of that stuff isn’t good for you, but you have a very different experience of movement and you’ll be more likely to stay with it. Start from a place of asking yourself, what would bring me joy or what would be meaningful? And so you can pair movement with other things that already bring you joy. And we know that movement will enhance the joy you get from them. So if you love your dog, go for a walk with your dog or play with your dog in the park or the backyard.”
Wanting to find a universally joyful exercise routine, Dr. McGonigal looked at how performing physical motions can cause our brains to feel emotions. Just like happy music can cause happy feelings on a sad day, so can happy movements. Researchers compiled a list of motions we perform while joyful. They found that people make universal moves — like reaching into the air — when happy. They also discovered that performing those moves can cause happiness in and of itself.
Now, Dr. McGonigal has created an eight and a half minute “joy workout” from the moves designed to leave you feeling happier and energized. It can be performed standing or sitting down. It’s comprised of a reach, sway, bounce, shake, jump for joy and confetti throw motion. There is a modified seated version of the workout for people who cannot stand. You can watch a video of the routine here. While it isn’t designed to make you lose weight, you will burn calories and get moving while adding some happiness to your day. So give it a try and see if it makes you feel like jumping for joy!