You know about the benefits of regular exercising. (In case, you are skeptical, here’s a post that gives you the low-down with ample scientific evidence.) You care about your health. You want to live a productive and meaningful life doing the things you love. So it is no surprise that you want to get into the habit of exercising regularly. But it is easier said than done.
Anybody who has tried to form the habit of exercising knows how difficult it is to sustain the practice. You have to rise above lethargy. You have to muster motivation. You have to ignore temptations to skip a workout. To out it simply, you have to work on your mind even before you sweat it out.
Fortunately, the human mind can be controlled.
As human beings, we are both physical and mental beings. The mind and the body do not reside in watertight compartments and function independently of one another. Or else, why would we feel drained of all physical energy and not want to even get up from the bed when we are depressed? Or how do you explain fragile bodies overcoming daunting physical challenges just by the force of will?
The mind can push the body to do seemingly impossible tasks.
Meditation helps you control your mind, so you can make your body go through the grind of exercising before it becomes a habit. Here’s how meditation helps you build and sustain the habit of exercising regularly:
Meditation teaches you to slow down and think before you respond
We live frantic lives. We speed along our lives on autopilot mode where we decide impulsively and react without thinking. That is why, even if we know about the benefits of exercising regularly, we still hit the snooze button and go back to sleep instead of hitting the gym. It is an impulsive reaction, the undoing of being on autopilot mode. We don’t pause, so we don’t realize that getting up and getting out to exercise is far more beneficial than catching an hour more of shuteye.
Meditation teaches us to slow down, take a breath, and think before responding. The pause is only momentary, but it is enough to yank you out of the autopilot mode. This pause brings clarity and helps you make the right decision.
Meditation lets you overcome self-limiting beliefs
Meditation teaches you to relax, pause, and take it slow. Most importantly, meditation creates the quiet mental space where you can practice controlling your thoughts, so you don’t react to them impulsively.
We have tens of thousands of thoughts racing through our minds every day. Some of them are negative and serve us no good. But without knowing, we sometimes latch on to these unhealthy thoughts, nurture them, and make them a part of our belief system. When negative, self-sabotaging thoughts become a part of our mental makeup, our mind starts to work against us and limits our progress.
Thankfully, you don’t have to hand over your powers to negative thoughts. You can replace every negative thought with a helpful idea. It just takes three steps:
Firstly, detach yourself from the negative thought that crops up. Remove the “you” from your thought. Be as unemotional as possible as you analyze your thought and try to figure out if thinking the way that you are doing now will help you in any way.
So if you are wondering what good 10 minutes of jumping rope or running around the park would do and that if you should wait for the day when you can make time for an hour of cardio workout, step back from the thought. Forget all thoughts of the discomfort that the 10-minute of workout would entail for you. Forget how alluring turning over and going off to sleep sounds. Just think if acting on your thoughts will benefit you in any way. Be as objective as you can be.
Now that you have stopped yourself from being led by your thoughts, focus on your intentions. Reflect on the benefits of exercising.
Lastly, replace your negative thought with a positive idea. Think "I can again fit into my high school jeans if I exercise and lose weight." Tell yourself "My blood pressure will come down to normal levels once I start exercising and carry on with the habit." Or replace your self-limiting belief with this idea: "Exercising regularly is investing in my retirement funds. If I exercise regularly now, I will live longer, healthier, happier, and independently."
Meditation lets you visualize yourself succeeding
Visualization is a powerful motivational tool. When you are able to visualize your dreams as becoming real, you are motivated to put in the extra effort now. When you are able to visualize your dreams as becoming reality, the benefits of exercising regularly seem more tangible and thus worth going the extra mile for.
Visualize a leaner, fitter, and healthier YOU. If you have goals that require you to be fit, lean, and healthy, visualize them as becoming real too. For instance, see yourself climbing atop a mountain almost effortlessly. See yourself fitting into a smaller-sized dress. Visualize yourself waltzing through your endless array of daily chores without slumping down fatigued at the end of the day.
These mental images will help cement the benefits of regular exercise in your mind.
If the mere act of exercising seems like a chore, use the visualization exercise to convince your mind how enjoyable a cardio or a weight-lifting workout can be. For instance, see yourself working out with a buddy and having a whale of a time while you are at it. Or visualize yourself treating yourself to a takeaway dinner or a gooey chocolate cake after exercising every single day of the week.
Meditation creates the quiet mental space where you can shut out external distractions and the incessant chatter of your mind, so you can create these images, immerse in the feelings they churn up in you, and believe them to be true. Meditable app can help you in that with guided meditation tracks designed exactly for that purpose.
Meditation helps strengthen the mind-body connection
Living life at a breakneck speed robs us of our ability to tune inwards and listen to our true selves—our mind and body. The constant effort to react to external distractions is so overwhelming that we become distant from our selves.
We lose the ability to put a finger on our emotions or trace its roots. We are unable to hear our body’s responses—the minor discomfort that gives way to pain if left unattended or the slight churning of the stomach that eventually leads to an upset tummy if not treated right away. We become insensitive to our gut feelings.
Meditation puts us back in touch with our mind and body. Meditation retrains your mind to focus on subtle signs, so you can tune into the sensations you feel in your limbs, the lightness of your movements, the agility in your steps, and the flexibility of your joints and muscles. When you can actually “feel” these benefits of exercising, your commitment to a regular exercise regimen deepens.
Meditation helps you deepen your commitment to exercising regularly
The mental images you create reinforce the benefits of regular exercise. A strong mind-body connection also helps you realize the benefits of regular physical exercise. These, in turn, strengthen the why of your intentions.
We live our lives at a frenzied pace. We go about our days rushing from one job to another. We never stop to examine our motivations for doing what we do. However, not knowing the why behind your efforts does not inspire you to go the extra mile to achieve the results. When you are not inwardly motivated, you are easily distracted. You may even tend to abandon projects midway at the slightest hint of misfortune or in the face of minor obstacles.
Meditation lets you focus on your intentions and reinforce the why that keeps the fire burning within you.
Meditation teaches you to focus
Meditation helps you focus on the task in hand. When you can switch off the frenzy and chaos of the world outside, you can get into a state of flow easily. You become totally immersed in what you are doing and almost enter a trance-like state where you are unaware of whatever is happening around you. Your mind is focused only on the job that you are doing, like a sharp laser beam that cuts through darkness and din to strike its target.
If you can focus on your exercise regimen, distractions can’t bother you or waylay you and upset your workout plans.
Although meditating at any time during the day is helpful, there are specific advantages of pre- and post-workout meditation practices.
A pre-workout meditation is a great time to reflect on your intentions, visualize the benefits, and firm your resolve to go through with the exercise routine.
A post-workout meditation session lets you calm down and relax after a strenuous exercise routine. This period of relaxation helps your sore muscles rest, recover, and heal, so they become stronger. During this time, you can also reflect on your achievements—the self-sabotaging thoughts you ignored, the temptation to skip the workout you resisted, and the grind of the exercise you endured—give yourself a pat on the back and be more determined to sustain this healthy habit you have developed.
Meditable app lets you create pre- and post-workout guided meditation sessions to help you enjoy and stay on the right track.