I know this, theoretically. I mean, the science backs it up. But until you can actually feel it, until you know the rush, or know what it's like to come in grumpy and leave feeling better, it is a hard concept to grasp. "People actually ENJOY this? Yeah, right."
It didn't take me that long to form the habit of exercising regularly. A few weeks into swimming, and the habit was there. It took me much, much, much longer to enjoy it. And it took me nearly two years before I could actually say that I understood what people meant by "endorphins." It's not like taking a drug, where you start to feel the effect right away. Have a headache? Take a Tylenol and half an hour later, it's gone. It's not always, for me, so immediate when it comes to working out.
More often than not, lately, I do feel noticeably better after exercise. Even if it's just that I have more energy. I come in tired, lethargic, not exactly having a bad day, just feeling run down. Once I get through the activity, I have more bounce in my step. I feel like I can keep going. On days when I come in grumpy, sad, or royally pissed off, I'm usually a better person to be around after I've gotten sweaty. Of course, I usually forget about this beforehand. It's easy to talk yourself out of a workout because of how you feel at the moment, because you have to put faith in the fact that you will only feel better AFTER you do the thing you really don't want to do.
I was reminded of the power of exercise, yesterday. Got a text from a friend having a bad day, who just needed to vent and get some advice. Unfortunately, it came at a time when I couldn't respond immediately. By the time I did get back to them, the answer was "it's okay. I did my workout. And I worked it out in my head." Whether you feel a rush of endorphins at the end or not, exercise can often act as therapy because it gives you time to think, to focus. There can be a meditative aspect, whether you're in a pool, alone with your thoughts, or whether you're punching your aggression out, or whether you're on a bike riding like a bat out of hell, or whether you're doing yoga and quite literally meditating. Exercise helps to clear your mind.
So, whether it's in response to feeling crappy, or whether you're just following a routine, try to do something active. Trust in the process, get through it, and you will feel better - whether it's because of the mental break you've given yourself to think things through, or it's the chemicals being released that change your body's chemistry. Trust that it will work. The hardest part is forcing yourself to start, to get all the way through it, and to repeat - over and over and over - until you get to the point where you know that it's going to work.
Because being healthy and balanced is more than just being strong or lean or not-sick. It's about feeling good.