Yup, I still need to think about my mental health even when I am moving my body. You might be thinking “isn’t physical exercise supposed to be GOOD for our mental health? Isn’t that what “they” say?”
I am no doctor, but it does make sense that when we exercise and move our bodies, it releases all those yummy endorphins that our body and brains love. But our mental health is more than the chemicals running through it. It is also about our intentions, thoughts and mindset.
I see so many whose main motivation to exercise is to:
Shrink their bodies.
Have the perfect abs
Punish their body for enjoying a piece of cheesecake.
Now I know that is not everyone's main motivation. But I also think that there are many who are not even truly aware of where their motivation and intentions come from. There could be underlying damaging reasons as to why you are motivated to move your body. I say this, because I have heard all the same shame marketing that you have and I have had to work HARD at pulling back the layers to get clear on what it is that I want to truly feel or do. I want to listen less to my thoughts and listen more to my body and honour what it needs. I don’t want to be influenced by the thoughts and beliefs of others.
Now, I am not saying that wanting to lose weight or build muscle is bad. It is the motivation behind our WHY that can affect our mental health. If it is to punish ourselves or to manipulate it so that it can conform to societal ideals, then all that motivation is external, based on what “others” tell you should look like or be like. When we take action from a place of self loathing, to fit in, or that we have to “earn” feelings of happiness, then it is not sustainable and you are not doing your overall mental health any favours.
Instead, choose to move your body because you want to honour it.
You want it to be strong so that you can physically do all the things you want your body to do, like hike a mountain, run after your littles, or to keep it strong as possible as you move into your later years. I move my body because I respect it and love it. So when I love and respect something, I like to honour it by giving it the opportunity to do the things it needs to thrive and yes, that is moving it. I have seasons in my life where moving my body has not been a priority. I am NOT going to judge myself on the times that I chose not to move it, because what does that serve? Nothing. Guilting or beating myself up to motivate me to move it is not going to work. It is dishonouring myself. So, if I chose to move it, it is because I want to honour how it wants to feel.
So these are things I am putting into place to honour my mental health and intuition as I start a walk to run 5K program.
1. Instead of telling myself that I “should” move it, I am going to drop into my body and ask it how it would feel if I moved it today. This morning as I lay in bed, I asked my body and heart how it wants to feel today. I have been working with an inner wisdom coach Dhavita to help me tap into my intuition and let that guide me over my thoughts (cause man, the quality of our thoughts can be assholes at times). Back to me laying in bed, placing my hand on my heart and asking my body what it needs... A stray thought entered my head about starting the walk to run 5K I signed up for back at the beginning of the month. So, I asked my body how it would feel if I put on my running gear and it felt warm and excited in response. So I honoured that feeling. When I honour my body, I build trust in myself. When I take action from a place of judgement, guilt or trying to keep up with the status quo or societal ideals, I am not honouring what I truly feel and want.
2. I decided to follow a program because I know that this works best for me. What feels right for all of us is different and you have to try and experiment to find what feels best for you. There is no right or wrong way, no matter what the marketing gurus tell you. I am pretty self aware and my thoughts often tell me to push myself on a regular basis. I usually set too many goals, too many tasks for the day and my default can be on how to always improve or “do better”. I am trying to reset that default program, as it leads me to burn out and feel like I have to earn feelings of fulfillment by being productive. This makes total sense, as my enneagram number is an 8 and I am a challenger. I challenge others and myself even more. I will push myself too hard, too fast and I will get an injury in this 40 year old body that has a bad back and neck. The program helps me build to a 5k while still respecting my body and temper my challenging side a bit. As a side note, I love enneagrams and I highly recommend taking this personality quiz to get insight into yourself.
3. I will not push through pain and tell myself “no excuses”. Honestly, I hate when fitness pros say “no excuses”. It is so freaking disrespectful. It teaches us to distrust ourselves and to not honour our bodies or intuition. If people have a hard time staying motivated, then work on the mindset of teaching people how to trust themselves and build that inner motivation. Telling them that there are NO EXCUSES, is an extreme and I do not operate in extremes. I am a challenger, remember. So, if I have a headache, it is freezing rain outside or I am in my luteal phase of my menstrual cycle where my energy is at a low, I am going to freaking listen to my body and give it what it needs. Pushing through pain and ignoring my body builds distrust in it. When I feel distrust, then my motivation automatically goes out the window.
4. I am not going to get wrapped up in numbers. I don’t weigh myself. My motivation to move my body is never weight focused, even when I have gained 15 pounds and most of my jeans no longer fit. My motivation is always to love and respect my body because I want it to be strong and healthy. If I lose weight as a symptom of exercising, then so be it. I will not care about my pace or even the length of my run. I am following a 5K program because that is a great place to start. Not because I HAVE to run 5K or that when I reach 5K it will mean I am more worthy or accomplished. I used to always believe that I would be happier or feel different when I “accomplished” something. This thought process had me unconsciously withholding happiness and joy in the present moment. I have been practicing presence and finding joy in the moment, not waiting until I achieve the “goal”. My fulfillment is not based on the past or in the future. It is in the here and now moments.
When I wake up every morning, I will continue my practice of asking myself how I want to feel today and how I would feel if I moved my body today. I will honour the answer. If it is raining, then I will do yoga. If I want to rest. I will rest. I will not fight or negotiate with it. I will honour it always. I trust my intuition and it will never steer me wrong.
If you want to practice more mindfullness to be more present in the moment, then you can try without music. Music is life and fun for me and it's a must when I go for a run, so I am sharing 25 of my favourite songs on my playlist.