As we mature in life, we are continuously changing. Our bodies may slow down, and aches tend to become an uninvited guest that keeps knocking on our door. We see physical changes daily, by the unavoidable glance in the mirror, which reminds us that with maturity comes change. However, the particular one that creeps unseen like a burglar in the night is our minds.
Once our most trusted friend, our minds stealthy shift without recognition. It’s now time to reunite and train your brain to be your best ally.
The power of mental training
Many women over 40 who begin their fitness journey say: “Everything would be so much easier if my thoughts and brain were on the same page regarding what I want to achieve!”
Actually, it’s possible. There is no doubt that you can train your brain to be your best friend and your best ally. It’s simple. All you have to do is to pay attention and listen to the promises you make to yourself: “I’m going to walk a mile a day. I’m going to make a healthy change in my diet. I’m going to drink more water during the day.”
But, here’s the caveat. Unless you are completely honest with yourself, your mind is not going to believe you. You can tell yourself you want to make lifestyle changes or achieve new fitness goals but that old friend of yours is calling the bluff. You are likely to break a promise to yourself when you don’t follow through on what you’ve said you’re going to do.
Consider what happens if you tell your child that you’re going to do something, then you don’t follow through. This tends to happen to us quite often, so often, in fact, that the result can be detrimental. Your children may begin to lose faith and not believe you anymore. This is exactly what happens with our minds. You tell yourself you’re going to walk a mile in the evening after dinner but instead you choose to sit on the couch and watch an episode of ‘The Bachelor’. You have just proven to yourself that what you say you’ll do or want isn’t the truth. It’s merely a notion that you can ignore.
The good news for us is that our mental and physical systems are intricately connected and heavily influence each other. There are now several hundred papers in the literature which support the idea that – for instance- prior mental practice produces measurable gains in skilled performance, for both cognitive and physical tasks.
Whether you want to reignite your motivation to exercise or simply make your brain work to your advantage, here are some easy steps to follow.
Tell yourself precisely what you will do next
Goal setting is a powerful process for motivating yourself. By knowing precisely what you want to achieve, you know where you have to concentrate your efforts. You’ll also quickly spot the distractions that can, so easily, lead you astray.
For instance, if you say: “I’m going to take the dog for a walk, then walk the dog. I’m going to cook dinner right now, start cooking. I’m going to read for 30 minutes, start that timer. I’m going to take my vitamins but hold on I don’t have water. Well, don’t wait until later when you have the water, that is NOT having integrity with yourself”.
Get up and go get that glass of water and take those vitamins. That’s called integrity.
By setting sharp, clearly defined goals, you can measure and take pride in the achievement of those goals, and you’ll see forward progress in what might previously have seemed a long pointless grind. You will also raise your self-confidence, as you recognize your own ability and competence in achieving the goals that you’ve set.
Kick it up a notch
Training your brain also takes total dedication. What’s that thing you tell yourself over and over you want to achieve but have yet to do? Give yourself a 30-day deadline, or a timeframe if you will, and devote yourself to it.
Let’s say you tell yourself for one month you will finish all your showers with a 30-90 second cold rinse (the benefits of taking cold showers are numerous). You were doing great until one night you forget. You get out of the shower, get dressed, and are ready for bed when you remember. Since you are training your brain to believe everything you say you want, you get back in the shower and do your cold rinse. It may not be what you wanted to do but in doing so, you feel more empowered and committed to what you wanted.
This is training your brain and not taking the easy way out.
Just do it
As soon as you say you’re going to do something, act on it. If you need to be reminded to do something at a certain time, use an alarm. You will be surprised to see how that reminder will keep you motivated and on the right track.
The key to sticking with and ultimately achieving the goals you set for yourself is accountability. You could always ask a friend or partner to hold you to your personal workout resolutions, or you could bring them in on it with you. But sometimes even that isn’t enough to make new habits stick. That’s precisely where a reminder will come in handy.
We are on a journey here. It takes time to master but like everything, practice makes perfect. Once you reach that destination, the benefits will be plentiful.
Did you enjoy this article? Head to the podcast, “Fit is Freedom,” hosted by Kelly Howard, to listen to her top tips.