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?
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,
Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC
Clinical Exercise Physiologist
Health and Wellness Coach
Yoga and Meditation Teacher