It’s no secret that exercise is good for us. Exercising for a minimum of 30-minutes three times a week has many health benefits including, but not limited to: better-quality sleep, increased efficiency of the heart, decrease in stress and tension, and better immune system functioning. We have these health benefits of fitness engrained into our culture, however, it seems that for a lot of people working out and maintaining their fitness has become a stress-inducing necessity rather than a stress-reducing one.
People often view fitness as a means to an end. In other words, there is a goal that we create, we go through painful and physically exhausting workout regiments to fulfill these goals, and once we’ve accomplished them we are so burnt out that we stop exercising altogether. It’s yo-yo exercising! And just how yo-yo dieting isn’t healthy or productive, neither is yo-yo exercising! We must change our mindset around fitness so that it is more sustainable and fun. That is where mindful fitness comes into play.
Nuts and Bolts of Mindful Fitness
Mindfulness can and should be practiced in every and all aspects of life, including while you’re working out! We are all guilty at times of going through the motions of a workout, either because we’re tired and feel like we just need to get in the gym to see results, or because we don’t enjoy the form of movement or exercise we’re doing. Mindful fitness is the practice of focusing your attention inward during exercise so you are better able to understand your body’s needs and desires.
When we are able to concentrate on how our bodies are feeling during exercise, we are more in tune with our level of effort and exertion – should we dial it back or should we push harder?
If we push harder, will we injure ourselves? It’s all about listening to our bodies in an active and present way. Also, by practicing mindful fitness, we can explore various types of movements to ultimately find those we most enjoy. Exercising should be FUN, and when we find the type of movements we like, such as dancing, yoga, or tennis, we are more apt to actually find the time to do them!
A Mindful Shift in Activity
Growing up as a high-level ice hockey player, I was used to pushing my body to the brink of exhaustion on a near-nightly basis. Like many college athletes, when I stopped playing, I was at a loss of what to do. I’d never had to think about what I wanted to do for exercise because hockey was always there. It took me a while to realize that I didn’t have to kill myself at the gym in order to maintain my health. When I did realize it, I started exploring other ways of being active. I now know that I love hiking, yoga, and pilates. I look forward to these activities and have made them a regular part of my lifestyle. They make me feel good without creating stress for me, which is why I’ve been able to stick with them.
A Need to Move
As human beings, we intuitively crave movement after a long day or even a week of sitting at a desk or in meetings. Through mindful fitness, we are able to understand and satisfy these cravings without thinking of exercise as a necessary or painful chore – we transform it into a nourishing activity instead. By paying attention to the needs of our bodies, we will inevitably begin to move more, and in ways that we find enjoyable and impactful. Also, we will begin to notice when our bodies are craving a more rigorous exercise (like a HIIT workout) or when we need more of a calming, stretching exercise (like yoga). By connecting the mind and body around exercise, we are better able to understand our bodies’ needs and appreciate how truly remarkable we are.
How to practice mindful fitness today
You can start practicing mindful fitness RIGHT NOW by noticing how your body is feeling. Are there any parts of your body that are sore or tight? Have you been fidgeting in your chair all day because you just want to get up and move? Take a minute to do a full-body and mind scan to see how you are feeling physically and mentally. What is the first type of movement that comes to mind that you feel your mind and body would benefit from right now? Recognizing what type of exercise you’re craving is the first step. The second step is to now actually do it! And remember to always notice and bring your attention back to your body throughout the entire exercise. Goodbye yo-yo exercise and hello enjoyable fitness!
June 25, 2019
What is self-talk?
I can’t believe I just said that. Do you think they think I’m stupid now? How does my hair look? Wow, I just ROCKED that presentation; go me! I’m not smart enough to lead this project. I can and WILL run this 5k if it’s the last thing I do!
All of these are examples of self-talk. Self-talk is that inner dialogue that is constantly going on inside your head, playing out past or future scenarios over and over again in your mind.
Two brains image via Shutterstock
It’s probably easiest to think about negative self-talk as the little devil on your shoulder – the guy who’s always telling you you’re not good enough, that you’re fat, or that you’ve done something embarrassing and should go hide in a corner now before you do anything else to humiliate yourself. Sure, this little devil only lives in our minds, but what we think can very quickly affect how we walk through the world. In other words, negative self-talk can do real damage, even if we never speak a single word of it out loud.
Positive self-talk is that angel on your other shoulder telling you how amazing you are — that you deserve to be happy and nothing can get in your way. You might be familiar with positive affirmations: little sayings we can use to bring positive change into our lives. Research has shown that just as negative self-talk can be detrimental to our well-being, positive self-talk can be just as beneficial for our health.
What’s the Harm in Negative Self-talk?
Dr. Daniel Amen, a very well known brain doctor who used an integrative approach to heal conditions such as anxiety, depression, addiction, and ADD, describes negative self-talk as automatic. He argues that these negative thoughts can be harmful to how our brains actually function.
When we engage in negative self-talk, chemicals are released in the brain that make us feel stressed out and sad. If you’re constantly having negative thoughts about yourself, then your brain will actually trigger you to behave in a destructive way. You will eventually become sad, unproductive, and lonely because you are internalizing all of that negative self-talk.
How to use positive self-talk to improve performance
Recent research has suggested that positive affirmations can help protect us against the damaging effects of stress, and thus increase our ability to problem solve. This study showed that participants who were under chronic stress were better able to problem solve and showed lower levels of stress when given the opportunity to practice daily affirmations. In other words, by consciously practicing positive self-talk, people were able to reduce stress AND be more productive. Sounds pretty good!!
There are many different ways to use positive self-talk to improve your mental wellbeing. Sometimes it comes to us organically because we already feel great about ourselves, and sometimes we need to conjure up a few positive thoughts to respond to the web of negative self-talk we don’t even realize we’re weaving until it’s about to trap us.
Here’s an example of how I used it to combat self-doubt:
The other day I was planning to give a presentation to a group of about 20 people. I always get nervous before public speaking, but this time I was being particularly hard on myself.
I didn’t prepare enough. I’m not informed enough to be speaking about this topic to this group of professionals. What if someone asks a question that I don’t know the answer to? I’m going to look so dumb.
I couldn’t get these thoughts out of my head. But then I remembered some personal positive affirmations that resonate with me.
I possess the qualities needed to be extremely successful. My ability to conquer any challenge is limitless. I am a strong, indestructible woman.
Writing these positive affirmations out now, they seem really cheesy. But they really carried me through that presentation!
Try and think of a few go-to positive affirmations that resonate with you so that you’re armed and ready the next time you catch yourself engaging in negative self-talk. They might make the difference between accomplishing your goals and succumbing to defeat!
Two brains image via Shutterstock
June 09, 2019
Take a minute and think about your most recent health goal. It could be that you want to lose five pounds for that vacation you have coming up. Maybe it’s that you really want to reach 10,000 steps every day. We all know that goals are great ways to set our minds and intentions on reaching our potential. But what most of us don’t know is that not all goals are created equal. How we set up our goals, whether they’re short-term or long-term, weighs heavily on our ability to actually achieve them. And of course, that’s the point of a goal right? To strive to achieve it?
By creating SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely, we set ourselves up for the greatest likelihood for success.
Creating SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely, we set ourselves up for the greatest likelihood for success.
When we say “specific,” you might be thinking “I DO set specific goals. I SPECIFICALLY want to fit into my jeans!” But that’s not what we mean. We are talking about specific, tactical details. HOW will you fit into your jeans? Will you get there by adding exercise to your daily routine? Starting a meal plan? Let’s look at getting active:
A general goal would be something like “I want to walk more.” That’s a great idea in theory, but it doesn’t hold you accountable to the details that will actually get you walking. Will you be walking alone or with family or friends? Which days do you want to walk? Where will you be walking? Why do you want to accomplish this goal?
Did you notice anything about that barrage of questions? Who? What? When? Where? Why? Right, that’s what we mean by specific. The general statement of “I want to walk more” doesn’t answer any of these questions.
On the other hand, saying “I will walk 10,000 steps every weekday by committing to a walk around the lake at lunch with my coworker Rachel, because I WANT TO FIT IN MY JEANS!” is much more specific and you are more likely to stick with it. There are requirements within that goal that are holding you accountable to reach it.
Being able to track your progress through established criteria is the marker of a good, solid SMART goal.
You can’t improve what you’re not measuring. This is a rule across nearly all things in life, and personal goals are no different. Being able to track your progress through established criteria is the marker of a good, solid SMART goal. When you’re able to measure your progress, you’re more likely to stay on track to ultimately reach your goals and stay motivated to reach higher still.
We at Livzo recommend using tracking tools to get you there! Check out our suite of tracking tools in the Health Diary, and reach out to your Livzo Coach if you need help getting started.
A measurable goal will be able to answer the questions: How much? and How will I know when it’s accomplished? Take the example of the 10,000 steps a day goal. This is a measurable goal (using an activity tracker) because it answers how much (10,000 steps) and how you’ll know when you’ve accomplished it.
Attainable goals are about how you CHOOSE the goal. They are goals that are important enough for you to fully commit to while also recognizing any potential roadblocks that are out of your control. Attainability assures you success in achieving your goal if you’re willing to put in the work. You’re willing and able to put in the work of walking 10,000 steps a day in order to fit into your jeans. You know that by walking around the lake during lunch with your co-worker Rachel, you’re setting yourself up for success in eventually being able to achieve the bigger goal of fitting into those jeans. But if you know you are usually out of the office during lunchtime, then this goal wouldn’t be attainable and you must rework it accordingly. Attainability is all about choosing a goal, sticking with it, and making sure your plan of attack is realistic given any external variables that could keep you from reaching it.
Relevant goals make sure that the smaller, day-to-day goals are leading you in the right direction to eventually reach your larger goals. Is your walking 10,000 steps a day goal relevant to fitting into your jeans? Yes, it seems like it is. However would walking 10,000 steps a day be relevant to a goal about getting a promotion at work? That might be a stretch. SMART goals are thoughtfully connected and integrated into your larger goal so that you can see results.
A goal should be placed within a time frame so that there is some sense of urgency in accomplishing it – when will you start working on it, and by when do you want to see results? In the case of fitting into those jeans, do you have some sort of looming event? A reunion perhaps? Have you given yourself enough time to accomplish this goal by walking 10,000 steps a day? Or do you just want to see results before summer? Either way, does that mean you should start walking tomorrow to accomplish it? Are you ready to get started?
Relevant goals make sure that the smaller, day-to-day goals are leading you in the right direction to eventually reach your larger goals.
Ok, so here’s the final (long-winded, as it were) goal that we’ve come up with after this lesson in SMART goals: “I will start walking 10,000 steps every weekday starting THIS MONDAY. To get there, I will walk around the lake at lunch with my coworker Rachel. I’m doing this now, because I WANT TO FIT IN MY JEANS by June, because I have a vacation coming and I want to bring them.”
The SMART goals model is a good starting point for creating effective goals that actually get you where you need to be. We’ll ask you again to think of a goal you’ve set (past or present) and whether you achieved it or feel confident that you will. And then consider everything we went through on this list once more. Is your current goal SMART? If not, what needs to be adjusted in order for it to pass the SMART goal test?
June 03, 2019