Often my clients are surprised that creating optimal wellness requires working their mental muscles in the same way they exercise their bodies. It takes discipline, practice, and consistency.
Just as you might plan to get up and do your physical workout, you also need to plan to work your mental muscles if you want to shift your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs to help support and change your actions to get different—and more desirable—results.
How long do you think you will maintain a workout program if you force yourself to exercise through sheer willpower but spend the whole time thinking about how much you hate it? Let’s just say your chances of long-term success will be pretty slim.
But how likely it is that you are going to go from hating to exercise to loving it in an instant? You wouldn’t expect to get off the sofa and be able to go run 3 miles the first time out, so why would you expect to create new mental patterns that quickly?
The truth is that mentally, most people are the equivalent of coach potatoes. They just react unconsciously to the physical stimulus around them in the exact same way they’ve always reacted, or people around them react. They have no idea that they have just as much potential to control their thoughts and reactions as a body builder has to curl a 50-pound dumbbell.
Just because you have hated exercise in the past—or have always hated it—doesn’t mean that you have to hate it forever. That is a practiced reaction that you actually do have the power to change—if you want to.
I know because I was one of those people. As a kid, I was not physically gifted. My lack of grace was a running joke in my family. Reading was my pleasure and the idea of working physically hard and, heaven forbid, actually sweating were abhorrent to me.
In other words, I hated exercise. Oh, my parents poked, goaded, and prodded me to get off the sofa and move, but I resented the heck out of it.
As a teenager and young adult, I only worked out long enough to meet my weight-loss goal. As soon as the scale hit my target weight, I went right back to my more slothful habits—only to regain the weight I had just lost—and usually then some.
It wasn’t until I started shifting my thoughts that I began to be able to exercise more consistently. First, I made peace with the need to exercise to maintain my health and feel physically well. Slowly and surely—with mental practice—I began to look forward to it, and eventually to actually enjoy it.
Now, my day is off big time if I don’t get my workout in. All truly is not right with the world! I enjoy moving my body and working out—and I love how good it makes me feel. And I love to sweat!
Building your mental muscles is a process, just as building your physical muscles is a process.
You first figure out your goal and create a plan to get there. There are lots of mental exercises to choose from, such as centering exercises, meditations, making lists of things you appreciate, visualizing, affirmations, journaling, and consciously shifting your thoughts on specific topics.
Just as you decide if you want to run, life weights, or do yoga, you pick what feels right to you—and what you will actually do consistently. And then decide how often and for how long. Just as with physical exercise, start off easy and build up.
With practice, you’ll begin to notice that you don’t instantly get angry when someone cuts you off in traffic, and even better, you’ll find yourself pushing yourself in your workout because it feels good and you want to.
What can you do today to exercise your mental muscles? How can you make that a consistent practice that you are just as committed to as your physical workout? What difference does that make to achieving your wellness goals?
Together we can do it!
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