It is no secret that physical activity makes people happier, but I would like to explain what it is about CrossFIt that takes happiness to another level. Exercise releases dopamine, a chemical in the brain directly linked to happiness in human beings. What a lot of people do not know is that while the release of dopamine is dependent on physical activity, it has more to do with experiencing a new stimulus, learning new things, getting in the ‘flow state’. Although using an elliptical 3 times a week for 20 minutes will get your heart rate up, the happiness you get from it will quickly plateau and eventually dissipate due to the monotonous nature of the activity. CrossFit provides a unique stimulus every day and challenges you to learn new skills. Learning may come in the form of training to run or lift with better technique, getting comfortable with inverting your body, becoming more confident with jumping, or focusing on improving balance. Regardless of what task you are asked to accomplish on any given day, you are guaranteed to be challenged. With age, demands may change, but experiencing unique stimulus does not. I would argue that as we age, developing better balance and body awareness is more important than ever.
While external benefits in life such as image and status may contribute to our overall happiness, they make up a small portion of the total equation. Internal happiness and intrinsic value are ultimately what provide us with contentment and fulfillment. In CrossFit, nothing that you have earned is given to you. No one can give you your first rope climb, no one can clean and jerk 200lbs for you, you can only do it yourself. Because of this, people develop intrinsic happiness having accomplished things they set out to do. The cherry on top is that we all do this together, we get just as excited for others accomplishments as we do our own. A culture that is mutually beneficial ensures that everyone leaves with a smile on their face and cannot wait to come back.
The only thing that has changed since my days of being a class clown is that I have discovered another tool to make people happy, and that is through fitness.