How would you describe your mindset around exercise? Is it one of “I have to do it to control my weight”, “It always feels like a chore”, “I just want to get it over and done with” or perhaps, the common “I hate going to the gym”?
For many, exercise feels like an obligation. Something we feel we must do. If it creates anxiety and dread, then chances are you won’t start, let alone continue, doing it regularly or long-term. More and more the intent behind exercise is becoming a chore to help us achieve ‘health,’ a punishment for eating “bad” foods, and for women, a method to regain a younger, pre-pregnancy or pre-menopausal body.
We know movement can pay a huge dividend in terms of health and longevity. However, focusing on the health benefits may not necessarily be motivating. What would need to change, to increase our level of enjoyment so that our outlook would be one, not of obligation, but opportunity. What if, rather than focusing on fitness, we focused on the positive ways it makes us feel?
When we meet up with a friend, we look forward to opportunity to catch up. Imagine if we had the same mindset to movement! Not see movement as being for weight loss or for health but as an opportunity to feel better in some way. To be able to see movement as an opportunity, not an obligation. See movement as a friend – doing something that makes us feel good.
Think about ways to change your movement mantra from “I have to exercise to …” to something like “When I (activity), I feel …!” or “(activity) is an opportunity to … .” Below are a few suggestions to get you started with your new mindset!
“Movement is an opportunity to …
- be me and do what I enjoy” (be it dancing, lifting weights, tai chi or yoga)
- give me a sense of achievement when I get things done” (such as gardening, cleaning out a cupboard)
- go on an adventure” (go to new places, explore beaches, see local places of historic interest or delve into National Parks in your area)
- appreciate and engage with nature” (take in the beauty around you – there are thousands of plants and animals in nature that we have not experienced!)
- be outdoors, enjoy the sunshine and breathe fresh air”
- spend some alone time to collect my thoughts”
- achieve life/work balance”
- demonstrate compassion” (when we break out of our sphere we see causes that need our attention and care – a child that has fallen off their bike, wildlife that is injured, an elderly person struggling with a task)
- to challenge myself – to go longer or further” (ironically, exerting yourself gives you more energy!)
- give me a sense of belonging to my community when I meet people in my area”
- spend time outdoors which will help me be more productive at work”
- be creative” (dabble in photography, listen to music)
- feel in control of my health” (whilst you cannot change your body shape, you can improve fitness, which is a more important determinant of health than weight!)
- get curious about what I like” (beach or mountains? winter or summer? swimming or walking? sunrise or sunset? indoors or outdoors?)
- discover my level of determination” (especially with different types of movement!)
- to be with family and friends”
- partake in something that is mostly free, easy and can be done almost anywhere”
- have fun doing something spontaneous” (walk in the puddles, walk in the rain, break out in a little jog whilst walking or play “beat you to …” It’s guaranteed to make you smile!)
- invest in my personal growth by giving me time to reflect
- start the day feeling exhilarated and boost my mood”
- unwind at the end of the day, reduce stress and improve sleep
- to learn something” (be it listening to the news, a podcast for work or sports updates)
- show self-respect” (movement is a present that only you can give yourself)
- meditate to increase mindfulness and quieten the mind”
- prove how much I am in control of the movement I choose to do”
- be kind to myself by moving at a pace that feels right for me”
- praise myself for improvements to my balance / endurance / flexibility / strength”
- be amazed at what my body CAN do!”
Which suggestion from the above list do you aspire to feel? Or, perhaps you have your own? I would love you to share it in the comments below!