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If you want to learn how to be happy, then become active and discover the additional benefits of exercise. We spoke to Matt Burgin, Murdoch University sports psychologist, who explained this concept to us.

Growing up I spent hours with Dad at the local squash centre.  He played many years of pennant-level competition and I enjoyed tagging along to watch and listen.  The sounds of squash, with the wooden boards, tin, and quick rally of shots between players all echoing indoors.

So at Christmas this year when my wife gave me a voucher for a number of games of squash I was delighted.  I called a close friend who agreed to a game although he, too, had not played in years.

The game itself was unremarkable.  No exhibition of technique or tactics were on display at Court 8 that evening.  Most points were short and when the rally did extend beyond a few hits there was a pause to catch our breath, before the next point.

 

Squash


The real purpose for the game emerged over a well-deserved drink.  While the game lasted one hour, so did the conversation afterwards.  We talked about our families, the year ahead, painful muscles that would greet us in the morning and - as with most conversation between mates - a few good laughs.

Outside of the physical health benefits, sport and exercise plays an important part in maintaining our friendships, our social needs, and our mental health.  Experts now use sport and exercise alongside traditional medical and counselling interventions to deal more effectively with anxiety and depression.

Research show us that exercise triggers positive changes in mental health.

People who exercise report increased feelings of being competent, expecting positive outcomes, taking a welcome time-out from one’s routine or daily hassles and having a social interaction and companionship. 

Exercise brings about biochemical changes in the body - it increases the feel-good endorphins and helps to burn  the stress hormone, cortisol. What does this mean? It helps your mental health and outlook on life.

Other studies have found that these positive feelings which are associated with exercise accrue over time. So the more you exercise, the better you will feel.

For me, the motivation to play a game of squash had very little to do with fitness, competition, or the wish to be good at this particular sport. 

Use whatever motivates you to exercise. It could be for friendship, mental health, and other social factors.

The point is you're out there, having a go and the experience will be a positive one - physically and mentally.

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