It’s Time to Re-Examine the Mind-Body Connection
Mindfulness is more than a buzzword — it’s a powerful practice that has a positive ripple effect on many areas of your life, health and fitness included. Whether you’re embarking on a weight loss journey or want to improve your sleep, mindfulness can help you achieve your goals.
Before diving into the relationship between being mindful and accomplishing goals, it’s important to understand what people mean when they refer to mindfulness. Is it a state of being? Is it something you actively do? It turns out it’s a bit of both. The Oxford dictionary defines mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
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Here is how incorporating mindfulness into your lifestyle — by being more present and intentional — can revolutionize your health and fitness goals.
It Allows You To Set Meaningful Goals
There’s a reason so many people talk about the importance of setting SMART goals (which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound, in case you didn’t know). The process of identifying your priorities and defining your objectives is crucial if you want to succeed. And when you bring mindfulness into that initial goal-setting phase, you can set more meaningful goals that you’ll be more likely to reach.
“When we are intentional and purposeful, we recognize where we are right now, and where we are headed. We can then decide if we’re moving in the direction that’s meaningful to us — or not. With more intentionality, we can direct ourselves toward goals that will truly fulfill us and hit them easier,” according to Trish Tutton, speaker and mindfulness teacher.
Think about it this way: The opposite of mindfulness is being on autopilot. Doing what you’ve always done when it comes to your health and fitness is only going to bring you the same outcomes. So, snap out of autopilot mode and consider your current and desired situation.
Are there areas of your life where you’re not taking care of your well-being as much as you would like to? Do you feel inspired to train for a race or increase your energy levels? Use mindfulness to reflect on what you want and why you want it. Then, devise an action plan.
It Leads to Healthier Habits
Additionally, mindfulness is a powerful ally on your journey to reaching health and fitness goals because it leads to healthier daily habits. “There is a strong relationship between mindfulness and achieving goals, as mindfulness can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and make more conscious choices that align with their goals,” according to Michael Goldstrom, the founder of GetMotivatedBuddies, a behavior change social platform.
“For instance, instead of impulsively and mindlessly eating a bag of chips, you can choose a healthier snack. Instead of automatically skipping exercise because you have had a stressful day, you can choose to exercise despite it,” adds licensed psychologist Garry Spink, Ph.D.
Long-term change happens through moment-to-moment decisions. Mindfulness allows you to stay in the moment and make healthier choices, from listening to your hunger cues to sticking to your workout routine.
It Helps You Stay On Track
Being anchored in the present moment also helps you stay on track with your goals and avoid the trap of all-or-nothing thinking.
“Mindfulness encourages us to be aware, moment to moment. With this orientation, we recognize that anytime is a good time to work towards our goals — it doesn’t have to be a new year, a Monday, or the start of a new month,” says Tutton. “This moment is full of opportunities to make a new choice that takes you closer to your goals. Even if you missed going to the gym or meditating or eating more plants yesterday, today is a new opportunity, and each small choice adds up.”
It Lowers Your Stress Levels
Several studies have shown the impact of mindfulness practices such as meditation on stress levels — that’s because mindfulness plays a role in regulating your nervous system and has a calming effect.
If you want to reach your goals, less stress is good news, says Goldstrom: “Meditation can reduce stress and improve focus and clarity, which can in turn help individuals make progress towards their goals. No need to meditate for hours every day to reap those benefits either. You can technically practice mindfulness anywhere, anytime.
“Notice how often your mind wanders from what you’re doing and dwells on past disappointments, or future stresses. Can you bring your mind right back to focus on what you’re doing right now? This will not only help you enjoy what you’re doing more, but it will also reduce unnecessary mental stress,” according to Tutton.
Leveraging Mindfulness to Reach Health and Fitness Goals
Ready to leverage the power of mindfulness to reach your health and fitness goals? Embrace the following habits.
Spink recommends practicing mindfulness in all areas of your life, not just health and fitness. “Like many other skills, it takes practice,” he says. “I encourage people to practice mindfulness in non-stressful situations including using various apps, eating their regular food, engaging in mindful breathing, and other less-difficult mindfulness exercises. Each practice helps build your ability to do it next time.
You’ll also want to pay attention to your thoughts and emotions so you can avoid self-sabotaging. “Try to let go of negative or self-defeating thoughts that may be holding you back from reaching your goals,” recommends Goldstrom. “Focus on the present moment, by simply recognizing recurring thoughts about the past or future.That simple act of awareness will make a change.”
Don’t forget to celebrate your successes as you make progress towards your goals — and, most importantly, don’t be hard on yourself if you’re not mindful all the time.
“I encourage people not to become upset with them if they have difficulty, are unfocused, or revert to the behavior they are trying to change,” adds Spink. “Changing behavior and reaching goals is hard, and there will be lapses. An important part of mindfulness is being non-judgemental, and that includes your mistakes. You should analyze the mistake, plan for how to address similar situations in the future, and move forward still in pursuit of your goal.”
Practice staying present and play the long game.
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