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Teaching Our Children the Direct Connection Between Exercise And “Happy” Brain Chemicals

Happiness in the home doesn’t come without effort. When kids struggle with strong emotions like anger or boredom, which could take place due to sibling rivalry a healthy outlet is needed! Instead of sending them outside to play as a consequence, consider teaching your children the science behind the exercise-happiness link as a fun way to encourage a healthy family lifestyle.

happy kids

Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins are the fabulous foursome linked to our happiness. These brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) are responsible for relaying information throughout our brain and body, commanding the heart to pump, lungs to breathe, and stomach to digest, etc. When they are out of balance, they can adversely affect mood, sleep, concentration, and weight.

  1. Dopamine: sometimes called “the chemical of reward”, dopamine propels us to achieve goals and exudes a sense of satisfaction with our accomplishments. Low levels of dopamine are linked to chronic boredom, fatigue and even depression.
  2. Serotonin: this one is probably best known for its happiness effect. Serotonin flows when you feel significant or important. You can boost your levels by exercise, exposure to sunlight, and meditation.
  3. Oxytocin: often referred to as “the cuddle hormone”, this chemical is essential for building trust, and healthy relationships. Positive social interactions and physical touch can boost your levels and improve relationships (a win for cuddles and hugs!)
  4. Endorphins: these are released to alleviate pain and stress. In fitness, they manifest when your body gets it “second wind” or “runner’s high.” Aside from exercise, laughing is the best endorphin inducer.
7 habits happy kids

Applying What You Learn

When children complain about boredom, when they’re struggling with emotions or letting go of screen-time, remind them about their brain-body-happiness connection. Decide as a family to do something.

  1. Rewards: dopamine spikes as goals are met. Set a goal for a family run, aiming for longer distance or better speed, and at the end grab frozen yogurt or donuts as a prize!
  2. Outdoor activity: get out in the sun to lift serotonin! Play a game of catch, go swimming, skating, hiking, climbing or simply take the dog for a walk – all can quickly improve mood.
  3. Socialize: jumpstart oxytocin by engaging in a workout play date. Invite friends over to play anything you’re equipped for: basketball, soccer, jumping rope, hopscotch, or anything physical!
  4. Encourage laughter: do something as family that is silly and stimulating to release endorphins. Our family loves to have dance-offs on our favorite home treadmill with the speed on low but you can get creative! Do yoga in superhero costumes or have a water balloon or snowball fight.
  5. happy kids

Whatever you decide to do as a family, the lasting effects will be linking in their mind a connection between happy feelings and exercise, give them an outlet for strong emotions and many great memories of times spent together as a family.

Give a Family the Gift of Laughter

Pass on the love and the laughs with these:

laughter quote

happiness moving forward quote

quote about laughter

Kevin Jones

Kevin Jones is a Writer. Blogger. Communicator. As a happily married father with two amazing kids, he is always learning helpful ways to keep a family active, healthy and happy. Kevin's areas of focus include: health and fitness for all ages, a love of researching family fitness, nutrition, and how to fit workouts into the busy lives we have. Kevin works with multiple fitness companies and organizations such as NordicTrack. Feel free to connect with Kevin on: LinkedIn | Twitter

24 comments

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  • We always encourage outdoor activities and socializing. Good thing our son enjoys soccer. We also give rewards. The happiness on our son’s face whenever he gets his fave burger is priceless. 🙂

  • I have never thought about this before but I think it’s awesome. Parents can definitely use this to their advantage while raising their kids to be happy and healthy!

  • I definitely think my son has a burst of joy when he is running around. And dancing makes me happy. There has to be a connection between physical activity an those happy hormones.

  • Outdoor activities like hiking is the perfect way to lift their spirits! I know that I always feel better when I surround myself in the beauty of nature by going for hikes.

  • Great way to explain kids chemical balance and the connection to exercise. Love the list of things to do to add in their lifestyle to help ensure a ‘HAPPY’ kid! I’m a firm believer in laughter! I love laughing with my kids, it’s one of my most favorite things to do with them : )

  • I think this sounds like a good read. I love that my girls love to read. They always take part in reading programs during the summer.

  • I wish that it was easier to achieve the release of these chemicals. Unfortunately, not everyone responds to the same things in the same way.

  • My kids love water balloon fights. I love that there are self-tying water balloons now! One of our family’s favorite things to do outdoors on a hot summer day.

  • This is just another example of how important it is to exercise. Kids today spend way too much time staring at a computer screen or phone. They need to get out and exercise more.

  • Great read! I have always believed that active kids just lead happier lives. My kids love being outside and active and I love being outside and active with them! It’s so much better than being parked in front of a TV or video game system for an entire day and there really are scientific reasons why!

  • I believe that active kids are happier kids. My kids enjoy themselves and want to read and learn more when they have been outside for a bit, running around and having fun than if they have been stationalry all day.

  • This is a great post! I can totally relate! If I am having a bad day, going for a run can totally change my entire psychology being.

  • What a great post! It’s so important to teach children not only healthy habits like exercise, but also teach them WHY they need those healthy habits and should have them in their life. If they are taught the fundamentals, when they get older, they will know how to make their own choices.



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