Your whole person is set up to take care of you. Your brain, body, and heart all work together beautifully. Trusting this fact is the way to be well now and stay healthy, feel better, and stay motivated.
Last week spring was springing just fine, until three inches of snow covered it all. Suddenly we were back in a winter landscape. I enjoyed the beauty, especially knowing it was temporary. I wondered, though, what would happen to all the flowers and leaf buds that had been working so diligently to bring color back to our world. The next day the temps returned to ‘normal’ and spring was back on track with even more vibrant colors. Nature didn’t miss a beat because it is designed to not only survive, but to thrive.
Your natural instinct is to be healthy
Your whole person is designed the same way. Your brain, body, and heart are hardwired to not only help you survive, but to thrive. It’s just the way you are made. Consider that in this very moment:
- your brain is scanning all the input from your senses for any threats to your safety and well-being. If there is no immediate threat, it uses info from the past and present to predict potential threats in the future to protect you from harm.
- your body is taking in the air you are breathing and nutrients from the food you ate and sending it to your bloodstream to be carried to every cell in your body. Every cell uses these nutrients to do its unique job, and discards what would be hazardous to your health if it built up.
- your heart, that part of you that knows what is most important to you or your passions in life, is communicating to your brain and body about what choices to make and what to avoid, guiding you through your instincts, to help you thrive in the way only you can.
This just scratches the surface of how your whole person is helping you survive and thrive in every moment, without you even thinking about it or controlling it. Your whole person is engineered to work together beautifully.
When pain, weight gain, or low motivation are working against you
But what if your body and mind seem to be working against you? If you are in pain, tired, unmotivated, or gaining weight when you are doing all you can to lose it? Despite what you are told about these being signs your body or your brain is working against you, these are actually signs they are trying to help you.
- Pain is caused by a signal from your body to your brain saying something is wrong and the brain sending a signal back to your body so you know there is something that needs your attention to keep your body working well.1
- Low motivation is the result of ideas about what you ‘should’ do, what your body can do, and what your heart deems most important in this moment not being in sync. 2
- Those ‘stubborn pounds’ are often a sign your body is responding to signals of an Alarm from your brain that more energy might be needed in the future, to fight or flee a problem.3
Each of these are to keep you safe, so you can thrive. They are not problems, they are signals that your brain, body, and heart are trying to work together and need your help to do their job. When you trust these signals as signs of inherent self-care, your whole person works together beautifully.
Just like any strong relationship, trust is built by time and experience. How you think about your body, and how much you follow your gut instincts, either weakens or strengthens the ability of your whole person to keep you healthy and well.
The power of your mindset about exercise
Mindset science confirms the power of this whole-person synergy. Studies show that when someone believes exercise will help them be healthy, it improves their health markers like cholesterol and blood sugar more than when they don’t believe it will be helpful.4 When someone believes they are doing enough exercise, they live longer, regardless of how much they are actually doing.5 The belief effect has been shown useful in other areas of health like back pain, depression, and minimizing side effects from cancer treatments.6
“The placebo effect is more than positive thinking—believing a treatment or procedure will work. It’s about creating a stronger connection between the brain and body and how they work together.” Ted Kaptchuk of Harvard Medical School 7
The breakdown of the relationship of your body and brain
Each time you ignore signals from your body, call yourself ‘lazy’, or stop exercising because you are not seeing the results your brain expected, you diminish the trust and miss out on the power of the belief effect. It doesn’t help that we are ‘schooled’ in not trusting the body, especially when it comes to exercising for reaching a goal weight or achieving a look. We are fed false ideas about how the body works with exercises to ‘slim, tone, and tighten’. When they don’t work, we think it means we are not working hard enough, when in reality it’s the message that is false.
The brain is a target for these accusations as well, resulting in the firm belief you can’t be trusted with your own behaviors. The science-based reality is that using someone to push you because you believe you will ‘slack off’ if they don’t, eats away at trust in yourself, limiting your ability to stay motivated in the long run.8
The bottom line is this breakdown of the relationship between body and brain perpetuates the struggle with exercise. I have met way too many people whose self-esteem has taken a blow because of what their brain has come to expect of their body with exercise. They call themselves names like lazy, and label their body as the enemy. This is a stark example of how we pin our body against our brain, and we pay the price by feeling worse about ourselves and limiting our ability to be healthy.
It became clear early on in my career that you cannot improve the function and health of your body without the friendly companionship of your brain and heart. The foundation of motivation, health, and well-being is trusting that your whole person is set up to take care of you.
Exercise that strengthens the relationship between your body and brain
Let’s flip the script about exercise so it can strengthen this intricate connection between your brain and body work most effectively. Our Recharge Pause today is designed to rebuild that trust. It takes a common exercise, balance training, that usually is done with a mindset and motivation of fear—fear of falling—and flips the mindset to trusting that your body and brain are working together to take care of you. The problem of falling is real but the mindset of fear gets in the way of fixing the problem. We are humans who move around on two feet, with distractions and obstacles. We are going to fall. Beyond reducing the risks of falling, what we really want is to trust our body to keep us safe if we do fall off balance. Your body and brain are amazingly set up to communicate in a nanosecond to make every effort to regain your footing. When you build trust that your body is set up to take care of you by adjusting to keep you upright, it reduces fears, leading to more confident movement.
Like a strong trusting relationship, this Recharge Pause builds trust in your body through time and experience. Shift your mindset from thinking that success with a balance exercise is to stay in perfect balance, to being aware of how your body is keeping you safe. The swaying and putting a foot down or holding the chair are no longer failures, they are successes because your body just took care of you. Over time, this rebuilds trust in your whole person’s innate, continuous striving to keep you well.
Bottom Line: Your body and mind work best together.
When you shift from thinking that you have to exercise because you are a problem to be fixed, and embrace the idea that movement is a celebration of how your whole person works together to keep you safe and well, you not only have a better chance of survival, you are free to thrive, in this and every moment. Start with rebuilding the trust between your brain, body and heart. Practice trust training and enjoy the results of having a more friendly and stronger relationship between your brain and body.
Enjoy Exercising and Be WELL,
- Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68–78.
- Xenaki N, Bacopoulou F, Kokkinos A, Nicolaides NC, Chrousos GP, Darviri C. Impact of a stress management program on weight loss, mental health and lifestyle in adults with obesity: a randomized controlled trial. J Mol Biochem. 2018;7(2):78–84.
- Crum A.J., Langer E.J. Mind-set matters: exercise and the placebo effect. Psychol. Sci. 2007;18:165–171.
- Colloca L. Preface: The Fascinating Mechanisms and Implications of the Placebo Effect. Int Rev Neurobiol. 2018;138:xv–xx. doi:10.1016/S0074-7742(18)30027-8
- Zahrt, O. H., & Crum, A. J. (2017). Perceived physical activity and mortality: Evidence from three nationally representative U.S. samples. Health Psychology, 36(11), 1017–1025.