Mental Fitness and Health Tips: Self-Mastery
For this weeks fitness and health tips we’re going to look at habits; the mechanics that make them, break them and enforce them.
Whether there’s something you’re doing regularly and want to stop or there’s something you want to make routine, neither is impossible.
You hear about athletes, actors, Olympians and the hours they give to looking, achieving or performing at a certain level. There are people who managed to quit smoking, lose weight, run marathons. There is no secret and every success story has it’s unique details but the point of this fitness and health tips feature is to look at how those big changes start.
Are you more interested in knowing how they train or how they turned off all the electronic distractions in the first place? What they bought to kick that next carton of cigarettes or what they did?
Maybe you don’t comparison shop and aren’t looking at the next person trying to replicate someone else’s win. You just have a goal you’re trying to reach from getting things done on time to losing 20 pounds. Whatever your want, this is for you.
Fitness and Health Tips: Listen to Grunge
Consider life as a routine. Imagine a rat in a cage. Try not to sing Smashing Pumpkins as you read that.
We bring up the poor lab rat because they live a simple, programmed life. Water at a certain time, food at another. Get rewarded for hitting this button, punished for touching this lever. Basic learned behaviors.
It’s a stripped down way to look at some basic triggers of life.
We also mention the Smashing Pumpkin because that song was everywhere in the mid-90’s. There’s an entire generation of listeners that associate caged rats with Billy Corgan’s nasally vocals and walls of multi-tracked guitar distortion.
Once a song is stuck in your head it grabs you like that, triggering the rest of a verse, a bad breakup, or some other loaded emotion. It’s not active choice. Body chemistry, instinct, these things kick in ahead of thought. The association builds passively over time.
Health and Fitness Tips: What Are You Doing?
How many routines have you built in your life that guide you safely to similar results?
Consider your day from start to finish. Do you start by slapping the snooze alarm, grumbling about another damn sunrise? Are you jumping up with exactly 25 minutes prep time, eating eggs in the shower, brushing teeth while you wrangle your socks?
What’s the first thing you do when you get to work? When you arrive home? What three restaurants auto-populate in your mind when someone mentions food? What food makes you want a drink or smoke? What drink demands some greasy food?
These are your habits and routines. And just because certain destinations and actions are habitual doesn’t make them bad. You aren’t being controlled by the system, man. You have accumulated responses to times, tastes, traumas or other triggers.
A lot of these are habit loops which we’ve covered before. These are self-perpetuating systems that make old habits die hard and leave new ones out in the cold.
It doesn’t seem like much. Dental hygiene, walking the dog, kissing the person next to you in bed, making sure the lights are off before you leave. Each one is a tiny thing done so regularly you may not even realize you do it.
Routine Runs This
Does this sound familiar? You’re at work, you freeze for that second and wonder if you fed the dog, turned out the lights, left the oven on etc. These little routines hold a lot of sway over us.
Whatever their motivator, you make these things a part of your day.
That’s key. These tiny daily details represent mechanisms of learned behavior, things you chose to do until one day, they became routine. Crazy as it sounds, if you can do it with your getting ready morning ritual that means you can add other habits to your life or take some away. Most won’t be as easy as making coffee first thing in the morning but you’re using the same mechanisms and you can get them to the same point of semi-thoughtless regularity.
Whether it’s saving more money, eating healthier or working out regularly. It’s yours to do. The place to start is in breaking these “huge” (drama quotes) goals down to component pieces. You don’t have to set aside three quarters of your paycheck next week. You don’t need to have run 5 miles by Wednesday.
You do need to look at these goals as multiple pieces of small steps you can start doing today to normalize the larger action on a regular basis. Want to save money? Put aside five cents to five dollars a day, set your bank account up to do it automatically and start getting in the habit of not spending needlessly.
Want to work out every day? Do it. What’s wrong with 10 push ups first thing? Don’t start off looking to be a gold medal triathlete.
Sick of smoking? Think you can make it through the day with 1 to 3, just 1 to three less a day?
Fitness and Health Tips: Why Am I doing This?
Change starts with asking why. Call it self curiosity. Why buy the morning coffee before you catch the bus, not after? Why check e-mail before Twitter? Why check texts before starting that next task? It’s not a self-loathing judgement. You aren’t picking yourself apart. You’re paying attention to the little things you take for granted because eventually you’re going to look at the big things.
Why am I smoking another one? What happened before I found that old phone number and shot off a text? What is it about this that makes me want a drink? What am I doing instead of what I want to be doing?
Start looking at the mechanics of these habits and the reflexive actions you’re taking. Knowing the little pieces underneath what you’re doing is how you start to swap those pieces out or remove them all together.
Is The New You PRIME Eligible?
You didn’t become who you are overnight. No one gets to be friends with Chaz the bartender in a day. It took many pitchers and a bottle of buffalo sauce. That library of learned responses took a while to accumulate. When you’re trying to change or add a habit to your life, realize it takes about 66 days.
And it’s going to be a fight.
The whole time won’t be a brawl but there does come a point where you’ll need to remind yourself why you wanted this. It feels weird and refreshingly good paying attention to decisions as they’re made. Maybe it will be taxing at first but this is a finite process. It has an end. You get there and then these things that seemed ridiculously far will happen without thinking about them.
Fitness and Health Tips: Joy and The Infinite Cheefulness
It can be yours! Dreams and luxury! Platinum rims! Six pack abs! Just 66 days…
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
It sounds like an infomercial but there’s nothing to sell here. It’s just you. Your own boogie man/woman/person. But that boogie you is a Scooby-Doo ghost, threatening as 3 kids wrapped in a sheet moaning “Boo!”. It’s as simple as a kids cartoon to explain but the process takes some strength. That’s why you start smaller. Your strength will grow along with the challenge.
Sure it’s easy to type it all out. Typing is easy. Life is hard. But life is not impossible.
Stop looking at life like it’s a naked climb up Mt. Everest. There are hard parts to it beyond little changes but most of what challenges you can be broken down into little pieces. Remember that when starting something gets rough or quitting something seems impossible. Look at the mechanics of what you’re doing and the things in your way.
Break them to pieces.
That’s all for this weeks fitness and health tips. Check back next week for more health and fitness. Assuming the secret destroyers don’t hold you up to the flames.