Are you struggling with the dark nights, bad weather, returning to a normal life after Covid and feelings of despondency? Exercise probably seems way down on your list of priorities at this time of year; however, it is one of the things guaranteed to give you energy, better sleep, and a more positive state of mind. So, how do we get that positivity to exercise in the first place? Choosing to be positive will be easier for some people than others but it is possible to change your thinking pattern over time and learn how to be positive about the negative or obligatory things that are part of life, and how you deal with them. Does exercise feel like a chore instead of something that you enjoy doing? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! It’s hard to feel positive about something that you don’t want to do, whether that’s because you’re too tired, too cold, too busy, or just can’t be bothered. As PTs, we also have times when we feel like this but the one thing we do know is that we always feel better after exercising and that is our motivation. Focus on the benefits of exercise and how amazing your body is that it lets you be able to do the things that you enjoy.
Try the following to find your motivation and positive thinking about exercise, and anything else for that matter:
- Have the intention to practice positive thoughts. The idea of this is to replace negative thoughts and feelings with positive ones, and I can’t stress enough how well this works. They are excellent at changing your mindset away from failure and negativity and focusing on your strengths and abilities, and improving your confidence which, in turn, will help you to achieve your goals. Saying positive affirmations isn’t a magic cure all, but with practice and time, and saying the words with intent, they can change your outlook to a positive one, making them more effective. We are very good at saying we’re not good at something or there’s no point because…… but let’s change this to I like exercising, I’m good at swimming, running or I love Zumba, going to the gym, exercising with my friends and moving my body. Think about one thing that you enjoy when you exercise and focus on that to start. Believe in your abilities and promote self-confidence. Know your worth and start believing in yourself! The brain is very clever and if you create a mental image of you doing something and enjoying it, the parts of the brain that would be activated when doing this are also activated when you say and think about it. It gets a little confused between reality and imagination which works to our benefit in this case. If you start saying affirmations regularly, your brain starts to see these as reality. A great affirmation for exercise might be something like ‘I am thankful for what my body does for me, and I look after it by exercising and eating healthily’. Make this a habit that you do regularly. I find first thing in the morning is a good time for positive affirmations for what you are going to be doing that day and last thing before bed is a good time for all the things that you appreciate and are grateful for. It doesn’t have to take a long time – just 2 – 5 minutes. Repeat the affirmation a few times with intent, speaking with intent, and really listen to what you are saying.
- Be mindful. This is a great one to practice. Take notice of things that are around you. Look up! Look at the sky, the trees, buildings that you might never have noticed before. Look around at the birds, animals, grass, and things that are going on around you. This is good as it helps you to become more grounded and focus on the present rather than worrying about things in the future.
- Move! Either get out in the fresh air for a walk, swim, run, go to the gym, try a class such as Yoga or Zumba, anything that gets you moving. Do something fun like running around with the kids, going to the park or for a long country walk that ends with a pub with a lovely fire (one of my favourite things to do 😊). Exercise releases endorphins which lower stress and anxiety and bring about feelings of positivity and happiness.
- Play your favourite music. Playing music releases dopamine which is a mood-boosting chemical released in the brain, so put on your favourite tunes whilst you’re exercising, walking, cleaning or just dancing around the room. We get complemented on our music all the time here at W Fitness so pop in to see us and find out how we can help you to achieve your fitness goals whilst having fun.
- Be kind to yourself. Don’t set your goals too high which will set you up to fail, leading to negative feelings. Set small goals and vary your workouts with the gym, classes, walking, running or whatever you enjoy doing. Taking a break and resting is just as important as exercising so, if there is a day when you feel that your body needs to rest, then listen to it without feeling guilty that you’ve missed a class (overtraining is not good for you!). Your body knows when it needs to rest so look after yourself with things such a reading a book, enjoying a film, having a long hot bubble bath, or just enjoying an early night, if it is something that you enjoy and will make you feel relaxed and positive about.
Try not to see exercise as a chore, or punishment for something that you have eaten, as this promotes negative thoughts and feelings of guilt and disappointment. Try to see exercise as something you do after working hard, to relieve stress, to give your mood a boost or to get together with friends and this will shift your thoughts to a more positive way of thinking and become something that you look forward to. Having a gym buddy is a great way to start enjoying exercise more, as you can have a good catch up whilst going round our 30 minute circuit!
Of course, we need to balance positivity with negativity – we can’t be positive, happy and bubbly 100% of the time, but if we can choose times to think about things that upset us, make us angry or irritable and become more comfortable with those feelings, then we can become better at dealing with them, and have a healthier balance.
Invest in your future and reflect on the good things and be grateful for them. Take the time to look after yourself and enjoy your ‘me’ time and keep practicing those positive affirmations. After all, why would you want to keep telling yourself negative things such as you aren’t good at things, or you don’t want to do something when, instead, you could be feeling more relaxed, happier and with a more positive state of mind. You brain can be trained to do this just like any other part of your body can be trained, so give it a go, and watch your positivity grow! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
Caroline & Hannah xx