Mental wellbeing is imperative to a healthy and happy life, but most of us tend to skip out this part when we think of our health. Of course exercise is just as important, but the two are intrinsically linked; and you must have one in order to maintain the other.
It doesn’t really matter which one you start with, so long as your intention is to obtain good health in an overall sense. I know that I am not alone in saying that I struggle to find the motivation to get up early for a run, or go to the gym after work – neither of those things appeals to me.
Recently I have found myself in between jobs, feeling a little lost and at a loose end, with heaps of time on my hands. It came as a bit of a shock that actually, even when I am not busy with work getting up for that run or going to the gym still doesn’t appeal. I realized that it was my mindset that needed investigation.
I know we hear this all the time when it comes to motivation, ‘it’s all in the mind’ and all that jazz, but I find that no one really tells you how to maneuver and navigate those tough mental barriers that come up. It really is beyond difficult to get motivated to stay fit and healthy if it doesn’t come naturally to you.
With some hit and miss fitness regimes, gym memberships and attempts at running every day, I’ve started to understand how my mental gym works. I’ve also practiced yoga on and off, and as advised by my personal health coaches, taken up regular meditation.
Another problem I found I came up against was that putting aside 30 minutes a day to meditate was near impossible. I tried and failed several times, and found that it was only in times of deep stress and anxiety that I stuck with those 30 minutes to find some mental relief; a reliever rather than a preventative. Rather than sit there for 30 minutes feeling frustrated and restless, I have begun taking a more mindful approach to my day.
For example, I ask myself how I am at regular intervals; “Liz, how are you feeling?” and I mentally check in with my chest, gut and head to see what’s going on. I also take time to just feel my feet on the ground when I am on the train, or when I am walking at work – or anywhere, eating my lunch or having a conversation; I take a moment to concentrate on being in that very moment and not elsewhere in my mind.
I know it sounds small, and potentially irritating or impossible to do, because that’s how I felt when I started too. However, I persevered and even if I did some once a week I gave myself a pat on the back for making the effort. Then I found I was doing it twice a week, a few times a week, once a day, and then today came and I realized I had been doing it on and off all day!
Whilst I have been slowly integrating this new form of mental wellbeing into my daily routine, I have also been practicing short 15-minute yoga sessions. It originally started during my time between jobs as a means of physical release, but then it became a real comfort. I looked forward to my evening yoga class, and I helped myself by signing up to the 30-Day Yoga Challenge with Erin Motz at http://www.doyouyoga.com/course/the-30-day-yoga-challenge/. I loved these quick sessions and I felt fitter within a few days, I highly recommend giving it a try.
These small changes have helped me to feel mentally centered and physically stronger; nothing big has happened to my figure, but that wasn’t what I wanted to achieve. I have that nice achy muscle feeling almost every day, and I am more in touch with my feelings and emotions than ever before.
Being centered in this way allows me to navigate my days and whatever comes my way with more patience, calm and perspective. Feeling physically fitter helps to solidify and make this shift tangible, and my improved mental health allows me to see that block of time for exercise as an enjoyable use of my time as opposed to a complete drag and waste.
My conclusion is that there is no one size fits all when it comes to health and fitness, and just like anything else in life, you have to find the routine that suits you. I realize that running and the gym aren’t really what gets me going, I listened to my mind when it said ‘ugh, really??’ I advise trying things, seeing what makes you tick, what you enjoy – and don’t be discouraged if you find it hard to start, starting is the hardest part!
Do listen to yourself, give yourself space to not like things, and listen after you’ve done it too and see if that makes any difference. It’s all about the intention to put that time aside for yourself; the very fact that you have thought ‘right, five minutes of yoga/running/stretching/breathing’ is a great start. Just take it slow and steady, and in small, manageable bite-sized chunks.
Like anything, throwing yourself into a diet or mad regime is going to knock you off kilter, and will be very hard to sustain in the long run. So, start small, just try it with no pressure, no judgment and no target, and see what happens. Remember, it’s all about putting that time aside, and giving yourself space to see what you can do!