Can Journaling Help You Exercise Smarter?
Spring has sprung in Northern Michigan, finally! More sun and warmer temps beckon us outdoors and inspire us to get out and move. Spring is a great time to enter into or return to your exercise routine*. But just like any other healthy habit, it can be hard to find the motivation to stay committed to moving our bodies.
Instead of plodding through an exercise routine, using highly over-rated will power to push through motivation obstacles, how about taking a step back to look honestly at those obstacles, as well as your hopes and goals? Observing our strengths and struggles nonjudgmentally allows us to view and explore them without falling into sabotaging self-criticism. Once we are clear on where we are, strengths, struggles, and all, then we can plan the path forward with a clear vision based in reality and inspiration.
So, try taking a step inward to notice the story you may be telling yourself about exercising, a story which may color and shape your motivation and commitment to this healthy habit. Journaling is a great way to begin this practice. Here are 3 journaling prompts to help you get started:
1) Get clear on where you are right now. Why do you want to exercise? It seems like an easy question, but we exercise for different reasons, some for specific health related outcomes, some to meet athletic goals, and others to get out and feel good. Knowing why you want to exercise can help you choose a routine and set goals that will be effective and enjoyable. It can also help you remain realistic about your exercise routine, which helps you to set specific, achievable goals that honor your motivation and path, not someone else's.
2) Take a peak at your future self. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, imagine walking a path. Ahead you see yourself 3 months from now. What do you see from a whole, integrated perspective, not just your physical self, but what do hope for in terms of your emotional, spiritual, and relational self? Now, what strengths do you hold that can get you further along your path? Perseverance? Positive attitude? Enjoyment of the outdoors? And what obstacles might get in your way? Lack of social support? Time limitations? How can you problem solve those obstacles now, so when they pop up, you have a plan to overcome them? Keep this picture (make sure it is realistic!) close, and revisit and revise when it's helpful.
3) Maximize the benefits. Take a moment at the end of each exercise session to journal about how you feel, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our human brains are wired to spend lots of time ruminating on the negative aspects of life, and it is more difficult to hard-wire in the positive. So take a minute to revel in your accomplishment and the state you are in after you exercise. What do you feel? Name how your body feels. Name the emotions you experienced while exercising and post-exercise...joy, positivity, pride? Revisit this positive physical and emotional state when you are low in motivation, remind yourself of what is to come (no worries if you aren't feeling those good vibes, journal about the obstacles you noticed and spend a minute problem solving those struggles).
Journaling can be an effective awareness practice to help you uncover the stories that either limit you or motivate you. Give it a try, you might surprise and inspire yourself! Most of all, use exercise journaling as a method to explore, not critique. Everything you uncover is more information, neither good nor bad, just more self-knowledge to work with to increase your motivation.
So...journal, explore, and MOVE!
Look for another blog next month about how meditation can help you meet your athletic/exercise goals.
*As always, if you have a specific health condition or are new to exercise, have a conversation with your health care provider regarding your exercise routine.