We’re surrounded by information about the benefits of exercise, but many of use still have trouble incorporating regular exercise into our lives. Although we know it’s good for our body’s and more and more studies point to it’s benefits for our mental health, we often still don’t make it a habit.
The following are 4 tips to start an exercise program that you will stick to.
- Start slow. You might want to see results quickly, but starting a new exercise program by exercising so hard that during exercise you find it hard to talk you can postpone the mood boost that accompanies exercise by as much as 30 minutes. This is enough time to make many people give up exercise for good.
- Focus on “feeling good” mentally, rather than on the physical results. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals in the brain associated with positive mood. The effects of endorphins on mood occur immediately following exercise. In contrast, physical changes can take weeks and months—too long to maintain motivation.
- Choose exercise that you like. Making the actual process of exercising pleasant makes it much more likely that you will make the time for it and continue, even when life gets busy.
- Engage in positive self-talk. When it comes to exercise, we often focus on what we haven’t done, rather than what we have. Instead of punishing yourself for your failings (“I didn’t do a full hour today”) praise yourself for what you did accomplish (“I managed to fit 15 minutes into a busy day”).
Starting new habits are never easy. But once you get started, exercising regularly can help you maintain a positive outlook and improve your overall sense of well-being.
In order to understand how you manage your emotions now, it is helpful to think through what you tend to do when faced with crisis, overwhelming emotion or just the stress of everyday living. The following are questions to get you thinking about it.
What do you do to get focused?
What helps you feel centered and present in the moment?
When you’re in a bad mood, what works to change it?
When have you actively done something to help manage feeling angry, stressed, or anxious? What did you do?
What do you do to distract yourself when you’re upset? What do you do to take care of and soothe yourself?
What emotion is the most difficult for you to deal with?
What helps you calm down when you’re upset?
What is hardest for you 1) asking for things you want or need from people, 2) keeping calm when someone tells you ‘NO’, or 3) sticking to your values, even if it means someone will be upset with you.
What negative emotion do you have most often?
Are there aspects of your life that you are currently avoiding dealing with?
Changing emotions, managing crisis, handling conflict and improving awareness of the present require knowledge of how you cope with pain and negative feelings. Attending to what has worked and what is most difficult for you is a step towards better understanding yourself and your need for additional skills.
In DBT the skill designed to keep relationships is called the GIVE skill. It is an acronym, with each letter standing for a behavior that will help you keep a relationship. You will find that it is a skill that you likely already use on a regular basis with people that you care about and whose company you enjoy. However, these skills can become much more difficult when you are in a situation with people that you don’t like or enjoy. A demanding boss, irritating co-worker or incomprehensible manager may test your abilities to stick it out with the GIVE skill. If you feel angry, hurt, like someone doesn’t respect your opinion, or that you’ve asked for something skillfully and the person still hasn’t responded you may find this skill more difficult. However, if you find yourself at odds with the people in your life, then GIVE is likely a skill that will decrease the conflict you experience and increase your ability to ultimately get what you want from others. The trick is to remember and use the skill while you are interacting with the person.
G: Be Gentle. No attacks or threats. Be considerate.
I: Act Interested. Listen to the other person and their point of view.
V: Validate the other person. To validate you have to figure out what problems the person might be having. Then you have to acknowledge those feelings or problems.
E: Use and easy manner. Try to be lighthearted. Use humor. Smile. Ease the person along. People don’t like to be bullied or made to feel guilty.
STEP 2: Generating Ways to Reach your Goal
Now that you’ve decided on a goal or resolution, you need to figure out how you are going to achieve it. For example, if your goal is better health, will you focus on losing weight, changing your eating or exercise? At this point, you want to generate as many possible solutions or routes to your resolution as possible. Spend a little time brain storming different ways to proceed. Try to resist the urge to reject ideas. Tell yourself that “quantity breeds quality.”
STEP 3: Evaluating How to Reach Your Resolution
Now is the time to look at what you expect to happen if you begin on your resolution. Think about what you expect for both in the short term and long term. If you come up with negative consequences (i.e. I’ll start and then lose interest), ask yourself how you might overcome those obstacles. If you find yourself coming up with reasons why every course of action is doomed to fail, take a look at why you might be throwing roadblocks in the way of getting where you want to go.
STEP 4: Choose a Solution
Now that you’ve chosen a resolution and evaluated different ways to get there, it’s time to choose one way. The goal is to implement a course of action that has some likelihood of working. Take some time to trouble shoot your solution. Think of all the possible ways it could go wrong and what you can do if it does.
STEP 5: Acting on your Resolution
Go over where, specifically in your day to day life you will do something differently. What exactly will you do different. With the example from before of better health, you may decide that you need to shop for foods differently and buy more vegetables and cut them up for handy eating when you get back from the store. You will need to make sure that you have time for vegetable preparation after grocery shopping.
Remember: people who achieve their goals are not the people who face the least amount of failure. They are the people who fail and get up and try again.