Have you ever tried telling yourself to do just five minutes on the treadmill?
What almost always happens?
Once you’re there…you keep going!
This is partly psychological; it feels silly to get off after five minutes when you’ve already gone through the trouble of hitting the start button. But it is also physiological; in those five minutes all of your body’s processes wake up. Your muscles and brain are almost instantly better oxygenated as your breathing and your circulation increases. And as you persist, your movement becomes easier. Exercise also stimulates production of BDNF, a crucial brain chemical that reshapes the synapses. In short, it can inspire fresh thinking.
What does this have to do with my subject today?
There has been a lot of talk online lately about using self-compassion during what is undoubtedly a stressful time for most of us. Indeed, I preached the same in several of my latest blogs. However, I want to step in, as much of this has been misinterpreted. Allow me to explain:
Self-compassion is about practicing being a better friend to yourself. This means going gentler on the self-talk. Don’t be so self-critical. Give yourself a break when you know you need it. Factor in everything that’s going on and, if you find yourself getting behind (on work, on fitness, on nutrition, etc.), the last thing you want to do is pile on stress by bashing yourself.
What it is NOT about is making excuses.
Some so-called experts out there will go as far as to suggest that if you feel stressed about it, you just shouldn’t exercise. The problem with that is there’s a giant body of scientific evidence that proves this only makes things worse (if you missed it, check out my post on ‘The Amazing Health Secret‘ for more).
So I’d like to give you a perspective “shift” today, if I may.
Exercise is not a chore, it’s a reward.
Repeat that again out loud. It’s not something you tell yourself “I have to do”. Instead, tell yourself it’s something “I get to do”. Your body loves it and craves it. Look no further than my example with the treadmill above. And while I understand that not everybody loves exercise, you can learn to love how it makes you feel. The trick is to get started in whatever small way you can. If that means planning a five minute walk today because your intention of a thirty minute one doesn’t always get done, do it! Make your initial goal easier to do than not to do. From there you can always ramp up.
It also helps to choose an activity you like (running is one for me). That could mean playing tennis, hiking, or simply playing more soccer with the kids. It doesn’t have to involve lifting weights in a gym, although that is super beneficial too if you do it well. Anyway, just something to think about.
I encourage you to practice self-compassion. Just beware those who would sell you this idea that it means being passive, not taking responsibility, or sitting still because you might not feel like it “at first”. Lower the intensity or duration if you know your stress levels demand it. But becoming a couch potato is not self-compassion, it’s self-indulgence, and it’s a very slippery slope. Take it from me, I was becoming a pro-couch potato back in May-June; no matter how much I was trying to keep busy, “proper” physical exertion that was just for me, and concentrated into an ideal window to gain physiological benefits, wasn’t happening. And, it’s still not overly consistent, but I’ve gained momentum and more self-compassion. I have more clarity about what’s possible right now, what’s important to me for balance (mentally), and how to be happier about my choices.
And the intention of giving your body what it needs is an essential part of showing yourself compassion. Well, that’s about as close to a rant as you’ll ever hear from me. 😉
Until next time…Be kind to yourself!
“Finest principled Chiro in the area. Don’t miss the opportunity to meet and work with this wonderful man.” – David F.