Self care series: Exercising for emotional well-being

Self-care series: As we enter the season of giving and a time of year when many people struggle not only with getting enough exercise, but also with keeping up with self-care, let’s take a deeper dive into how to make exercise a form of self-care.  To do that, we need to look at self-care from all aspects of your ‘self’—mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual and how to design exercise as a way to recharge your whole person, so you can be well now. 

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If someone sent you a message that said, “I need to tell you something important”, what would you do? Well, if it was from a business trying to get you to buy something, chances are you would ignore it. If it were a trusted friend, you would contact them right away.  

Emotional well-being is not about feeling great all the time, it’s about listening to your emotions because you know they are important messages about your well-being.  

If you think about eating a lemon, your mouth will probably start to water. If you think of being in your happy place, your body will probably relax. This is because thoughts are immediately felt in our body. Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is overwhelming, but what you think is always felt in your body.  

This happens through is a vast network of superhighways that run from your brain to every corner of your body through nerve cells. They are continually sharing information back and forth about the state of your well-being. Brain to body, body back to the brain, faster than you can blink. They communicate the degree to which you are are safe, contented, and connected. 

These three qualities of well-being we discussed in the last part of this series are a simple way to think about mental well-being. When your brain perceives that there is a threat to your safety, contentment, or connection to others, it signals to your body that there is a problem. Instantly the thought creates changes in your body to let you know there is a problem. At the same time, it prepares your body to take care of the problem. This is how your brain and body work together to keep you well.  

But if the ‘problem’ is a critical email from your boss, or your clothes feeling tight from a week of holiday parties, those changes in your body to take action won’t help you solve the problem, they may even make things worse. A negative stress response can limit creativity and self-control and send a surge of cortisol into your body, telling it to store fat in case this ‘problem’ leads to a lack of food in the future.  

We cannot change the way we are hardwired to handle stress. Your nervous system is hardwired to prepare for movement when there is a threat to your sense of safety, contentment, and connection. We can, however, listen closely to our emotions, knowing they are important messages about our well-being. As licensed psychologist and author Guy Winch, PhD shares in this powerful TED talk, when we see emotional hygiene as essential as washing our hands when around someone who is ill, we can truly be well.   We can choose to respond to emotions like we would to a trusted friend who sends us an urgent message—immediately with kindness and care.  

Yet, we often forget that those emotions prepare our bodies for movement. Moving with kindness is like washing your hands to clear away germs. When you perceive exercise as something you should do, hanging over your head like another task on your to do list, you miss the chance for it to restore emotional well-being. When you think of exercise as a moment in your day to check in and clear the effects of thoughts stored in your body, you are using exercise as a valuable form of self-care for your whole person.  

Bottom Line: Exercise, when done as an act of self-care, leads to emotional well-being. It gives you a chance to check in, listen to the messages, and respond by giving your body the movement it needs to clear the thoughts held in your body as emotions.  

Be Well Now,

Janet

Exercising WELL gives you a whole toolbox of user-friendly ways to exercise to restore well-being in your own personalized way.  Start by clarifying your Why for exercise in a FREE coaching call with me. No strings. No commitment. Just a conversation that lets you unleash your natural motivation to be well now.  Click here to schedule your call. 

How to drop the ‘should’ in exercise

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If we know we should exercise, why do we struggle with it? The answer is complex, but as I said in my last blog series there is one word in that statement that changes everything. ‘Should’ makes exercise an externally-imposed activity with future results. Why does that matter so much? Your brain’s job is to pay attention to what is most important to you right now, what will keep you well right now.

Yet those of us in the healthy-person business keep telling you all the great reasons why you should get more exercise.

Exercise regularly to reduce your risk of

  • colon cancer by over 60%
  • recurrent breast cancer by approximately 50%
  • Alzheimer’s disease by approximately 40%
  • heart disease by approximately 40%
  • type II diabetes by 50%
  • death from any cause (overall mortality) by 40% 1

No matter how powerful these statements are, they are not enough to keep you motivated now. When you are feeling tired at the end of a long day or overwhelmed by too many things on your to do list or comfortable in your bed when the alarm goes off, what you ‘should’ do does not hold much power. What is ‘good for you’ at some point in the future just does not get top billing compared to these more immediate challenges to your well-being.

In the last blog, I simplified all the science-based factors for self-motivation into the Exercise Motivation Equation.

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What is important right now and doable right now will be most motivating right now. The trick is keeping exercise important and doable in the present moment.

Step one: Importance. When businesses are clear about the company’s core values, know their ‘why’, and communicate it well, they are more successful at motivating you to buy what they are selling.2  This not only works for successful companies, it works for successful individuals. This is why a personal coaching call is the first step in my Exercising WELL program. When we use a coaching conversation to clarify your well-being Vision and uncover your most value-driven Why for exercise, you’ll find your self-motivation for exercise ramps up.  In the coaching conversation, we transform exercise from a ‘should’ to a ‘want to’.

Once you know your Why for exercise, you are ready to discover what is most doable for your body and life now.

Step two: Doable. When your brain knows exercise will leave you feeling better now, it will want to do it. But knowing how to exercise in the way that is right for your body right now, rather than for the body you want in the future is not so easy. Many of the marketable future-based results like melting fat, having long lean muscles, and enjoying toned arms are not even doable because they ignore the natural laws of the body. Other results like six pack abs, reaching a goal weight, or completing a fitness challenge only distract from your Why.

Once you know how to move in the way your body was designed and are focused on what you can do now, exercise will immediately make you feel better right now.

In my next blog series, I’ll talk about the Real-time Results of exercise. When you know what is happening in your body with exercise now, you have the best chance of knowing how to get the results that are most important for you now, and leave you feeling better now.

Rethink this Week: Take a moment to explore your Why for exercise. Ask yourself ‘why is exercise important to me?’ Now, ask yourself ‘why is that important to me right now’ four more times. This seems a bit silly—repeating the question—but it is based on the well-established process of Motivational Interviewing3. Asking the question repeatedly, and answering it thoughtfully, will get you closer to the most value-driven reason for exercising. This is your Why. It is the deepest source of energy for your motivation in the present moment. With this motivation energy, you will be ready to use the Real-time Results of exercise that are most important to you to stay out of the ‘shoulds’ and in the ‘want tos’ for exercise. This process is more effective in a coaching conversation but doing this for yourself is a great way to get started with getting to your Why.

Enjoy Exercising WELL,

Janet

 

  1. Exercise is Medicine 
  2. Simon Sinek TED talk
  3. Instant Influence, by Michael Pantelon, PhD 

Ready for exercise success?

Click here to listen to this audio series for FREE

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Does this sound familiar?  You know exercise is good for you, but you struggle to be successful at it. You see that some people are successful at it, though, so why is it so easy for them? In this series I am going to share with you four science-based solutions to your struggles with exercise.

But first, let’s talk about why the common approaches to exercise make it harder to be successful.

Does success with exercise mean you

  • reached your goal weight?
  • see results (e.g., muscle definition)?
  • completed a 5K?

Any one of these would certainly would be considered success in our culture.

But here is the twist: brain and body science tells us this way of thinking actually makes it harder to be successful over time.

Exercise scientists, through thousands of studies, have discovered the ways to exercise to improve fitness and health in a lasting way. Neuroscientists have discovered how the brain changes when something becomes a habit. Yet these have nothing to do with how long you can plank or how many calories you burn or if you can run a 5K.

In fact, what scientists know about lasting exercise success is missing in the most popular exercise programs. To make it worse, common ways to motivate for exercise, such as fitness challenges, or goal setting, can actually sabotage the creation of habits in the brain.

Clearly, our ways of thinking about exercise have steered us away from what scientists have discovered works for exercise success. For real exercise success, we must blend what we know works for the body with what we know works for the brain with what is most important to you.

In the next sessions, we will do just that. You will learn what science tells us works, how to spot the ways we stray from this, and rethink your way to your own version of exercise success.

Until then, take a moment to ask yourself, what does exercise success mean to me?

Whole-heartedly,

Janet

Listen to this series by clicking here.  Want to be notified when the next part is released? Sign up for my email list and I will send you notifications, plus bonuses and even more solutions for exercise success. 

 

 

 

Turning exercise information into motivation, part 1

Turning exercise information into motivation, part 3-9.pngCheck out this new TED Talk by Wendy Suzuki, PhD. Dr. Suzuki is a neuroscientist who, after an transformational personal experience with exercise, changed the focus of her brain research lab at NYU to study the effects of exercise on the brain.  She is one of my research heroes!

Her research adds to the already convincing evidence that movement makes our body and brain function at its best. When I watch this video or read research like it, my initial response is  “Yay! This is SO great!” But my second thought is always, “Oh no! 80% of the people hearing this are feeling even more guilt because they don’t get enough exercise!”

Why? Well, there is a clue in the last three minutes of Dr. Suzuki’s talk. She says everyone really only wants to know one thing: “Just tell me the minimum amount of exercise I need to get all these changes?” Why do we ask that? Well, yes, we are busy. Finding the time to exercise is the biggest reason people do not exercise. Yet, we find time for other things with a much smaller return on our investment—watching a movie, going out to dinner, surfing social media, playing video games.  Why are we resisting the time investment for exercise?

Dr. Suzuki states the goal of her research right now. “I want to understand the optimal exercise prescription for YOU, at your age, at your fitness level, for your genetic background, to maximize the effects of exercise for your brain today … and the rest of your life.” Thank you, Dr. Suzuki! It will be very helpful for us to get specifics about just how much we should be doing.

But even this specific information will not lead to motivation. That is because it cannot replace one of the critical skills for lasting motivation: the ability to listen to and trust your own unique, ever-changing body as your source for the most reliable and up-to-date information about exercise. No expert or technology can ever give you that information.

This approach does not come easily in a culture that loves the numbers—steps, miles, calories—so give it time. This week, simply notice what you listen to more—your body or the numbers. See what happens when you put all your trust in the most advanced source of information—your body in the present moment.

Next week, we will look at another key skill for turning exercise information into lasting motivation. Stay tuned!

Why be Fueled by Facts?

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Why invest even five minutes a day to get the facts? Isn’t fitness petty straightforward? You know what to do, you just need to find the time or the motivation to do it. Well, what I have learned over the past thirty years of talking to people about exercise is, it’s often not a lack of time or motivation that gets in the way. What gets in the way are the myths that have become infused into our ideas about how to exercise and what it means to be fit. Once those myths are cleared away, uncovering how doable and life enhancing fitness can truly be, exercise becomes a resource for enjoying more of life every day.

If you enjoy reading blogs or listening to podcasts, you will love the format of this online course. The information is condensed, because I am pretty sure you don’t want to waste a lot of time listening to “filler” information. Each video session of the 30-day course takes less than five minutes and can be viewed on any device.

Because I know how easy it is to lose track of courses and programs you sign up for, we have made this easy to complete. Each day for the month of February, you will receive an email with the link for the topic of the day. Simply click the link wherever you read email and you are taken right to the video.

A new session of Fueled by Facts, my FREE online course starts February 1, 2018.

Click here to enroll—the rest is easy! Enrollment closes at midnight on January 28.