Let's Get Physical
I am a BIG believer in the mind body connection. I have been trained to focus on the psychological workings of the mind, but I have found that incorporating the body into clinical treatment is just as important when working with clients. My dissertation topic also focused on the use of movement or exercise in therapeutic practice such as Walk Talk Therapy or Trauma-Informed Yoga. The range of benefits to the physical body and the mind are endless.
John Locke famously stated “a sound mind in a sound body is a short but full description of a happy state in this world.” The mind and body play off one another. For example, when are bodies are physically not well, we may feel an array of negative emotions (i.e. sadness, lack of motivation, disappointment, or unhappiness). The same is true for when we are emotionally feeling "bad." Our physical bodies may feel weak, tired, or you may notice and focus on aches and pains.
Ok, so what is your point?
if we could do anything for ourselves, especially when we are feeling not-so-great, it would be to GET MOVING. Exercise is one coping skill that provides more bang for your buck if you will.
There is also a biological reason why we should be moving! Benefits.org summarized it perfectly, "doctors recommend that we all exercise regularly because our bodies need to be physically active. We sit throughout the day while working and then sit more while relaxing with friends and family either at home or out on the town. Because of all the sitting we do our bodies do not work the way they were designed to work, or at least we don’t achieve the peak performance that we would if we were still living as hunter-gatherers. Hence we turn to exercise to ameliorate some of the effects of our sedentary lifestyles." Essentially, our bodies were programmed to move! Like food and water, our bodies NEED exercise in some form or another.
Don't get me wrong, adding exercise to our daily or weekly routines can be really challenging. We have professional obligations, family obligations, personal obligations and our to-do list seems never ending. But, what if we looked at exercise as something we HAD TO DO, like eating, sleeping, or drinking water? If we stopped eating or drinking water, eventually our bodies would breakdown. This is essentially true when it comes to exercising. If we stop moving all together our bodies physically and mentally break down (i.e. disease, mental illness, etc). Altering our outlook or perspective regarding exercise may be helpful to increase motivation, interest, and dedication.
What do the experts recommend?
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommends healthy adults "get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week." The Department of Health and Human Services also recommends strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during the course of a week (Mayo Clinic, 2015)."
Now lets think about this for a second. DHHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. When we break it down that is ONLY 2.5 hours per week or 1.25 hours per week of vigorous (i.e. running, spinning, sprinting) exercise. When you think of all the activities you do throughout your day, it really is not that much when we think bigger picture.
Let's take a common daily activity we all do, say our social media usage. Let's be honest, we are all guilty of spending a little too much time scrolling during our day than we would like to admit. However, you are not alone. Research shows "the average person has five social media accounts and spends around 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing these networks every day (The Telegraph, 2015)." Yes, you read that correctly, EVERY DAY! That is a lot of time spending on a platform that is really not giving much in return. Heck, it usually makes us feel worse! So, how about we spend 50 minutes scrolling on social media and the other 50 minutes moving!?!
Benefits of Moving
There are so many benefits when it comes to exercise that I could not possibly list them all in this blog post. But, I will highlight a handful that are super important. Specifically, I want to highlight the benefits to both the mind and body.
- Helps control weight
- Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Reduces the risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- Reduces the risk of some cancers
- Strengthens bones and muscles
- Improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls, if you're an older adult
- Increases your chances of living longer
- Ect, ect, ect...
Mental Health Benefits
- Lifts your mood
- Reduces stress
- Boosts confidence
- Improves sleep
- Decreases symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD
- Boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention
- Increases energy
- Builds resiliency
- Ect, ect, ect...
The Struggle is Real
So, if exercise is so great for you then why do we all have so much trouble doing it or staying consistent?? One reason might be that fitness is a long-term investment, most people have a difficult time imagining the end results and hence, struggle to exercise consistently. We also live in an "instant-gratification" type of world, where we want results NOW. However, exercise is a process where the results build over time, just like therapy I might add. Think marathon, not a sprint. Some additional reasons for why it can be so hard include:
- It can be boring!
- There is a tendency to think you have to workout A TON to get results
- Using exercise to "punish" yourself (ie. for eating poorly)
- We rather sleep
- Playing the general "I would rather" game
- Insert your reason for not exercising here
We all need a little motivation from time to time. Not just with exercise, but with anything in life. Here are a few ways to increase your motivation when it comes to taking care of your physical body and mental well-being.
- Treat Yo Self
- Dailyburn.com highlighted Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, advice. He talks about making the benefits of working out more tangible, such as by treating yourself to a smoothie or an episode of Game of Thrones afterwards. Brainstorming "little treats" to provide yourself the motivation to get up a move.
- Sign a Committment Contract
- We can make promises to ourselves all day long, but research shows we’re more likely to follow through with pledges when we make them in front of friends.
- Power of positive thinking
- Use visualization as a motivational strategy. For example, visualize the benefits before exercise. Maybe in the morning imagine how the sun will feel if you are going for a run outside or how you are one step closer to your goal (i.e. six pack, leaner muscles, emotionally stronger).
- Find your #fitnesstribe
- Elizabeth Richards talks about how "Researchers in a recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that rewarding new gym members with $30 or $60 gift cards for exercising made little to zero impact on their workout motivation. While it might sound like a sweet deal to get paid to sweat, what will ultimately inspire you to get up and start moving is a strong, supportive community. The laughs, high fives and words of encouragement from the bonds people make are things money simply can’t buy. From CrossFit boxes to run clubs to yogi circles, there’s a fitness squad for everyone. Find a workout that makes you feel good and surround yourself with people that help build your confidence as much as your strength. The cost of putting yourself out there? Priceless."
- Create a fitness "vision board"
- Now this may sound like a lot of work, but it does not have to be. What are your reasons for working out? What inspires you? What is the ultimate outcome if you were to stick to your workout plan? Maybe it is your physical health, maybe it is your appearance, maybe it is improving your mood. Find inspiration through media, friends, family, or quotes that provide a tangible way to look at your goal. This can be done by writing things down in your phone or perhaps visually creating the vision board by cutting out images, pictures, and words.
- Forgive yourself and/or Don't judge yourself
- We are not perfect. No human is. When you have an "off day" or just not feeling it for whatever reason (though those are the days that you need it the most), remind yourself it is ok. You did not fail at life. Not all is ruined or lost. Commit to yourself in that moment to get back on the horse tomorrow or later in the day. Maybe replace your vigorous spin class for a short walk. After all, the point is just to GET MOVING. Not every day is a perfect workout day.
- Finally, MAKE IT FUN!
- Do something that is fun. Yes, exercise is hard. But it doesn't have to be hard all the time. Incorporate something that makes it more "fun." Maybe its running or walking in a beautiful location. Or it is trying out something new with a friend. Laughing can be a wonderful workout for the abs. Try activities that spice up your workout routine from time to time.
Alright, go forth and GET MOVING!
Disclaimer: Please note, the information offered on this website/blog is not, nor is it intended to be, therapy or psychological advice, nor does it constitute a client/therapist relationship. Please consult a mental health provider for individual support regarding your own personal health or well-being or call 1-800-950-NAMI for resources and support.