Train Your Mind and Your Body
For all who are interested in staying healthy, overcoming mental barriers to exercise is Key, and this may become easier if you regularly practice mindfulness.
Some people look forward to exercise and enjoy the rush of pleasurable feelings it creates, and others dread it.
Mindfulness may play a powerful role in good physical health.
A study published in the Journal of Health Psychology revealed that people who reported being mindful during exercise, i.e., being in the moment, fully immersed in the activity, also felt more satisfied with the exercise.
Study author Kalliopi-Eleni Tsafou, a Marie Curie research fellow at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, says: “The message is that mindfulness may amplify satisfaction, because one is satisfied when positive experiences with physical activity become prominent … For those experiences to be noticed one must become aware of them. We would argue that this can be achieved by being mindful.”
Research published in Mindfulness journal similarly found that being more mindful may encourage you to make healthier choices and increase exercise motivation.
In some cases, group exercise classes are even incorporating brief moments of mindful introspection into its high-intensity classes, which are designed to train both your mind and your body at the same time.
Practicing “mindfulness” means actively paying attention to The Eternal Moment aka the Now.
Rather than letting the mind wander, when mindful you are living in the eternal moment and letting distracting thoughts pass through your mind without getting caught up in their emotional implications.
One can add mindfulness to virtually any aspect of daily life, even while you’re exercising, eating, or working, simply by paying attention to the sensations you are experiencing in the moment.
You can also be formally trained in mindfulness via mindfulness meditation courses and other mindfulness-based interventions.
Professionally organized mindfulness training programs may be best for some people, but one can also take steps to become more mindful in your everyday life, then pull up these skills whenever you feel stress starting to take hold, including while you’re exercising.
As for why it is so effective in terms of exercise, remember that exercise is a form of stress, and research shows mindfulness may regulate your body’s physical stress response via stress-reduction pathways in your body.
As explained via a press release from Carnegie Mellon: “When an individual experiences stress, activity in the prefrontal cortex — responsible for conscious thinking and planning — decreases, while activity in the amygdala, hypothalamus and anterior cingulate cortex — regions that quickly activate the body’s stress response — increases. Studies have suggested that mindfulness reverses these patterns during stress; it increases prefrontal activity, which can regulate and turn down the biological stress response.
Excessive activation of the biological stress response increases the risk of diseases impacted by stress (like depression, HIV and heart disease). By reducing individuals’ experiences of stress, mindfulness may help regulate the physical stress response and ultimately reduce the risk and severity of stress-related diseases.“
Some Mind Tricks to Boost Physical Fitness
Mindfulness is 1 way to tap into the close connection between your mind and physical body.
There are others as well, each of which has the potential to “trick” your mind into making physical fitness more easily attainable.
The video above shows ways you can trick yourself into exercising, although research suggests consistent exercisers have made exercise a habit triggered by a cue, such as hearing the morning alarm and heading for the gym first thing in the morning without even thinking about it.
This kind of habit is referred to as “an instigation habit,” and it was found to provide people with the most consistent results.
The Big Q: What else works to hack your mind for a better, more intense workout and, ultimately, a fitter you?
The Big A’s:
Focus Your Eyes on a Target: Keeping your eyes focused on a target in the distance while walking makes you walk faster and makes the distance seem shorter, according to research published in Motivation and Emotion.
Study author Emily Balcetis, PhD., an assistant professor in the department of psychology at New York University, said in a press release: “People are less interested in exercise if physical activity seems daunting, which can happen when distances to be walked appear quite long … These findings indicate that narrowly focusing visual attention on a specific target, like a building a few blocks ahead, rather than looking around your surroundings, makes that distance appear shorter, helps you walk faster and also makes exercising seem easier.”
Exercise in Front of a Mirror: The simple act of watching yourself exercise in a mirror will make your workout more efficient, as people have a tendency to adopt a step pattern that is similar to people around them. By watching yourself in a mirror, it may encourage you to stabilize your movement pattern for a more efficient workout. Study authors explained, “Visual information influences treadmill locomotion and associated measures of stability even when there is no intention to coordinate with external stimuli.”
Use Positive Affirmations: When you’re tempted to quit, stay positive by reminding yourself you can do it. Positive affirmations like “I am strong” and “I’m full of energy” work well here, and research suggests they can also boost performance.
Nick Galli, an assistant professor of sport psychology, says: “Positive self-talk reinforces your confidence and boosts your energy so you won’t quit when you feel tired or challenged.”
Listen to Music: When exercisers were able to listen to their favorite songs during a session of sprint interval training, their perceived enjoyment increased and was consistently higher than those performing the interval training without music. Past research has also shown that music can significantly boost your exertion level during a workout.
It is becoming clear that in order to have a strong physical body, a strong mind is required.
There are many ways to build your mental reserves and stamina, from mindfulness meditation to positive self-talk, and using those that appeal to you can boost your overall wellness while helping you reach higher fitness plateaus.
This is the New Year, a good time to learn and put this program into practice.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively
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