Saturday, December 19, 2009

Typically Mindless to Mindful

It really seems like just yesterday I was sitting at my kitchen table writing my final blog of 2008. I’ve found that when significant events happen in our lives, whether it’s the birth of a child, death of a loved one, new job, new home, we have a point of reference and then time seems to fly by. And as time goes by we fall into the typical roles and routines of our day to day lives, those of husbands and wives, moms and dads. I battle with routine and the “typical” stuff and I’ve resolved some stuff in some respects. But haven’t in others. I still force my kids to eat vegetables and I do so by begging, bribing and threatening (typical mom, no?). But when it comes to health, fitness and the New Year, it’s never typical. My commitment to health and fitness is long term and consistent. It doesn’t stop and start. But typically, January is the time of year when gym enrollment peaks. People are a few pounds heavier and looking forward to new beginnings. Some purposely eat their heart out over the holidays believing they will start anew in January. But typically by mid February the drive and motivation is gone, we’re tired, bored, cold and bitter so we slump back to old habits. Typical. So what will it be for you this year? Will it be a typical year? If you’ve been following your typical path maybe this is the year you change direction.

For myself, I’ve decided to make 2010 a more mindful year. A few months ago I came across “Mindfulness” and “Counter Clockwise” by social psychologist Ellen J. Langer. *Langer conducted an experiment at a nursing home wherein elderly men lived for a week as though it was 1959 and these same men seemed to grow younger…So what if you became more mindful? For a week you live as though you’re growing younger, stronger, healthier and lighter. What if you decide to behave like a healthy person with healthy habits? If you psychologically change your perspective isn’t it natural that you can alter physically? **When a group of hotel maids began thinking of their strenuous jobs as serious exercise they reaped greater physical benefits (weight loss and lowered blood pressure) than a similar group of maids who had not been told to think of their activity as exercise. People who are mentally engaged and focused during physical activity may benefit more from exercise than individuals who exercise mindlessly. “Put your mind to your muscle

During my time as a trainer I’ve found that people often fall into a mindless rut. We get up and run through the same routines day in and day out and are not fully engaged. We appear to be thinking when were not. We go along without much question, thought or analysis. We adhere to accepted notions of health, body, aging and fitness; we’re young, slim, healthy and active then we grow up, get married have families and become overweight, inactive, unhealthy. We “let ourselves go”. Is our mindset to blame? I question these expectations and think that the weight we are at twenty is a weight we can be for most of our life. By letting go of accepted notions we can have better health and fitness at any age. Be conscious of your mindlessness. If you at least conceive the possibility of a mindful attitude, even by such simple measures as those used in the nursing home experiment, you may actually surprise yourself.

This year choose not to blindly follow typical routines and mindless beliefs. Refuse to carryout senseless actions. Opt away from your programmed approach and reactions. “Challenge ingrained behaviours by making subtle changes in your everyday lives”…. and in your health and fitness. Make 2010 the year you take the “Counter Clockwise” approach with your well being. “The magic lies in being aware of the ways we mindlessly react to cultural cues.” Adjust your attitudes, speech and internal dialogue and you may then defy the beliefs that physically constrain you from achieving your best health and fitness. Simply - be mindful.

All the best in 2010. May you and your loved ones enjoy your year in good health and fitness/gena.

*Langer, E.J., 2009, Counter Clockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility

*Crum, A.J., and Langer, E.J., 2007, Mind-Set Matters: Exercise and the Placebo Effect, Psychological Science, v18, 165–171