Win Through the Power of Positivity

It’s pay-it-forward week at Exercising WELL and we are running a Win/Win Special.  From now until April 22nd, 2019, when you donate $45 to the Enjoy Life Education scholarship fund, you get your first month of the Exercising WELL Coaching Program FREE.  

Research shows positivity broadens your perspective, so you notice more opportunities, and helps you build long term resiliency1. When you take advantage of the Win/Win special, you help a teen build positive self-worth and inner confidence through the Enjoy Life Leadership Academy and strengthen your own positive approach to self-care while growing your inner confidence  that you know how to be Exercising WELL.

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Enjoy Life Leadership Academy

From the moment you walk into the Leadership Academy, you are overwhelmed by the energy of positivity—it’s contagious! Every moment is filled with this positive perspective and support for each other.  Check out this brief video to see for yourself. This is not a Pollyanna-type positivity, where talking about negative experiences is taboo. This is the place where life’s challenging experiences are embraced head-on, through activities like group challenges and leaders sharing their stories of resiliency. Life’s challenges are transformed through positivity and help students build resiliency through positive qualities like curiosity, creativity, and empathy.

Exercising WELL Coaching Program

Because our brain is designed to keep us safe by looking for problems, it’s easy to get stuck in the muck of life and stray from your best intentions to exercise regularly. This is normal but not helpful when it comes to building habits for well-being. Health coaching uses research from positive psychology to guide you to get yourself unstuck and avoid the swamp of self-doubt and frustration of life getting in the way. As your coach, I help you sort through your experiences with exercise each week in a way that you lets you use life’s challenges as a tool for learning how to exercise through the ups and downs of life. Research on habits shows that when something is a positive experience, it becomes a lasting habit. Making exercise a positive experience requires both an understanding of brain science and exercise science. This powerful combination is what makes Exercising WELL unique.

  1. Research from The Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania

Rise Above Negativity

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Why is negativity used so often in marketing and politics?

“Our ancestors had to pay a lot of attention to bad news,” states Rick Hanson in his TED talk. The more primitive part of our brain looks for problems to solve to keep us safe. It was essential in that lifestyle to remember where there was danger or a lack of food. This negativity-bias is normal and helpful…to a point.

In today’s world, marketers, leaders and politicians know problems will get our attention. They speak our negative thoughts, leading us to believe they are the truth, to believe we need their product or leadership to fix things.

The problem is, our brain will search for potential problems as well. We think of what might happen if we make a mistake, yet our thoughts are not reality. Our body reacts the same to these potential problems, though, so they seem very real. Again, helpful…to a point!

This works especially well in health and fitness marketing because our ancestors’ physical capability meant safety and survival. If you were physically unfit in some way, not only was your safety threatened but your tribe’s safety as well. Talk about peer pressure!

before and after

Seriously! Look at these before and after pictures. Notice the difference in facial expression, in body stance. Why is the lighting different? Yes, there was certainly a change, but marketers know how to highlight the negative.  Our brain sees the “desired” picture. If it does not match what we see in the mirror, our sub-conscious brain says “uh oh, problem! We better fix this!”

As Rick Hanson also notes, the more we focus on the negative, the faster our brain goes to problem mode. The good news is we can train our brain for a positivity bias (see Dr. Hanson’s TED talk to find out how).

When we are in alarm mode, though, this primitive part of our brain hijacks the more evolved part of our brain. We need to calm the alarm first to regain access to our logical brain. Mindfulness means to see clearly. Movement calms the body and reassures the brain that the body is capable. Mindful movement allows us to rise above the madness and see what is real and true.

Before turning on social media, casting a vote, making a purchase, take a mindful movement pause. Override the negativity bias and outsmart the ones who are using it for their own gain!

May You Be Well,

Janet

Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC

Clinical Exercise Physiologist

Health and Wellness Coach

Yoga and Meditation Teacher

Week 12 – Nourishing the Body

Imagine you and some friends are on stranded on a deserted island. You found a fresh water source, but food is scarce. Luckily, you have seeds for a plant that grows nourishing luscious fruits in just a few weeks. You take time to choose just the right location to plant these seeds, watching the seedlings carefully for signs of what they need to grow strong. Some of your friends are not quite as patient, planting seeds quickly and giving them lots of water, trying to speed up the growth. Which seeds will grow to produce fruit?

growing plant

Your well-being vision is the seed.

Your mindset is the location in which you plant the seed.

Your approach is how you care for the seedlings.

The Mindset:  Science tells us that belief actually changes how the body responds. “The placebo effect is a powerful robust demonstration of how our mindset, like the expectation to heal, recruits healing properties in the body.” Not sure you believe this? Check out this TED talk before reading on. The research is so compelling that the placebo effect is now being called the belief effect.

We harness the power of our vision for well-being when we hold it in a mindset of belief.  “I am healthy, strong, and energetic,” for example, creates a nourishing environment where those qualities can grow in the body. This is not just a “pep talk.” The power is in its deep personal meaning. Keeping in mind what you want from movement, and believing in it, is the first step in a mindful approach to exercise.

The Mindful Approach:  Like watching your plant for signs of how it is doing, this approach includes mindfully choosing how to exercise, checking in to see if it is bringing you closer to your idea of well-being. It provides protection when fitness marketing, cultural pressures, and life in general start to pull you away from what you really want.

The idea that we can speed up the natural process of the body, tricking it into seeing results faster, is like the approach of your impatient island-mates. There is a natural rate the body can change; when we try to push it beyond it, something breaks down – either a part of the body or our motivation.

Then, how much is enough exercise? Treat your body like the seedling, watch for signs. Do you have more energy and stamina from your current activity level? Is what you are doing leaving you feeling exhausted and defeated? The curious and kind attention of mindfulness provides valuable information. The body tells us how much is enough. When you experience a taste of your well-being vision with each exercise session, it is enough.

Maneuvering through the temptations to get results faster is challenging, though. In the mindful approach, self-compassion is there to help us accept that facing our limitations is difficult. Simply acknowledging each challenge with kindness rather than self-criticism calms the stress response and allow you to keep your cool when the pull is strong.

Activate it:  Learning to adopting a mindful approach to exercise takes time and practice. Here are some ways to get started. 

  • Notice your mindset and results with your current approach to exercise.
  • Practice choosing a mindset of belief in your well-being vision, setting your mind to turn on healing properties in your body.
  • When you are faced with your limitations, practice self-compassion to acknowledge it with kindness. Trust the signals from your body as a guide when choosing how you respond to challenges.

May You Be Well,

Signature

Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC

Clinical Exercise Physiologist

Health and Wellness Coach

Yoga and Meditation Teacher

Week 11 – Are you living in the should? 

“I was living in the should and it was exhausting,’’ said a client last week. Her approach had always been about trying to do what she “should” to be healthy and fit. Gradually learning a mindful approach, she is now guided by her well-being vision and how her body responds to choices she is making.

With all the conflicting information floating around, we can get thrown off track by the should’s. I should … exercise more … push harder … be seeing more results …  do more … be like … look like … be able to ____ ….

As a result, we might:

  • distract the mind in order to just “get through a workout”
  • find someone to push us through exercise sessions to make us stay motivated
  • try to “trick the body” by pushing it harder to get results
  • just give up, ignore the body, and avoid exercise altogether

Does this roller coaster of the “all or nothing” approach to exercise sound familiar? Motivation drains with every up and down, as the mind and body work against each other.

Healing the relationship between the mind and body requires a kind attention that builds trust. Instead of the body being like cumbersome baggage that gets in the way, the body becomes a trusted guide on this journey.

What should’s came up on your list from Activate it last week? Try replacing the word should with I really want to for each item. Which ones feel authentic? Which feel fake? When you have clarity about what you really want, healthy choices are all authentic.

Lisusan-omalley artke the mission of a successful business, a well-being vision statement gets to the heart of why you are doing what you are doing for your well-being. Instead of should’s that drain your energy, this vision guides you in designing a movement program that is energizing each step of the way.

What does a mindful approach to exercise look like? When this client was considering signing up for a long road race in May,  she first checked how this goal was in line with her well-being vision. It definitely lined up. Next, we discussed how she will know as training progresses if it becomes a ‘should’ rather than about her vision.  She felt confident that staying mindful in each training session, she would trust her body. Whether she finished the race, reduced her goal, or let it go completely, she will be truly successful because she knows her own definition of success.  She realized “when you listen to your body, it is clear.”

Activate it:

  • Adopt a regular exercise for the brain that actually trains it to more easily care for the body. Direct kindness to your body in loving-kindness meditation  – wishing it well, appreciating it, and paying mindful attention to all the ways it communicates what it needs moment by moment. Admittedly, it will feel a bit strange at first. However, it does actually change the brain and improve the relationship of the mind and body.
  • Strip away the should’s and focus on what you know right now about what you really want. Start by completing these statements:  I really want … to be able to ___, to feel ___, to have more ___. This is a starting point to guide an exercise plan that is sustainable and energizing.

Are you ready to get off the roller-coaster? Create your well-being vision in a Well-being Vision coaching session.  This is an inspiring, motivating, and fun session that gives you the gift of a powerful guide on the way to activating your well-being . Contact me to find out more. 

May You Be Well,

Signature

Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC

Clinical Exercise Physiologist

Health and Wellness Coach

Yoga and Meditation Teacher

 Photo: inspiring artwork by Susan O’Malley

Week 10 – Movement + Mindfulness

This month we will incorporate movement into our exploration of mindfulness and motivation. Please put aside your current thoughts about movement and exercise. Let’s mindfully explore all aspects of movement with a clean slate and a sense of curiosity.

Every cell in the body is an outpost of the brain. The mind is in the body as well as in the brain. There is constant two-way communication between these two points, mostly below our conscious awareness.

The brain is constantly doing its job of scanning for how safe, satisfied, and connected we are in each moment. It gathers information from different parts of the brain and from the body. When a threat is detected (perceived or real), alarm mode kicks in, and the brain sends signals to protect the body.  The body sends back feedback about how the response is working.

When the threat is internal, our body and brain fall into an unhealthy relationship. The body tries to communicate but the brain does not listen. The brain resents the body for not cooperating with its expectations. The two parts keep “arguing” and the discord limits our access to what can actually help.  Added to that, our culture tells us the body is a problem to be solved.

Science, however, tells us the body is a tremendous resource for well-being. In studying the science of movement, I’ve been constantly amazed at how our bodies are specifically designed to move. Movement naturally activates health and well-being.

Now, you might be thinking but it is painful and difficult to move, my body is not a friendly place right now. The approach to movement in our culture is often not helpful in addressing this challenge. When we push too hard and compare ourselves to others, we are guided by the should’s instead of by what the body is telling us in each moment.

Mindfulness can help increase motivation for movement and can even improve athletic performance. Yet lately it seems even mind/body types of exercise fall prey to the “body as a problem” approach (for example, when yoga classes become competitions or an excuse to push the body way beyond its current abilities in order to achieve a posture). This misuse of mind/body exercise only fuels the fire for the internal war. There is a healthier way.

FullSizeRenderThe core of mindful movement is our relationship with our body.  Receive the full benefit of movement by letting go of the idea that signals from the body are a threat (a reminder that we are aging or can no longer do something). Instead, view signals as helpful guides as to how to move toward our own well-being. When we include mindful self-compassion in exercise, we befriend the body, allowing movement to inform our path to health. The mind and body start supporting one another again and we create a positive feedback loop so both function at their full potential. Now THAT’S well-being.

Activate it:  Let’s brainstorm. Simply let thoughts flow, without boundaries. Jot down all of your thoughts about your body. Jot down all of the words you associate with exercise. Include all the should’s that are associated with each.  Just see what comes up without judgment. This awareness is the first step. Next week, we will explore how to foster a healthy relationship between mind and body.

Please share what you have discovered in this or other blogs in this series in comments.

May You Be Well,

Signature

Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC

Clinical Exercise Physiologist

Health and Wellness Coach

Yoga and Meditation Teacher

Image © Karen Murphy