In my last blog I wrote about the importance of variety in foods and meals and how including many different foods and keeping eating interesting can improve nutrition and also adds to our enjoyment and satisfaction around food.
I talk to clients a lot about how food has become something that many of us fear. Most of us think about food in terms of calories or grams, how it impacts our body’s shape or size, or can increase or decrease our risk for certain chronic diseases. We are constantly breaking this wonderful resource that gives our body life and nourishment down into a mere calculation.
In doing that we completely miss the enjoyment and satisfaction factor that food is very much designed to and supposed to provide. The 5th principle of Intuitive Eating – Discover the Satisfaction Factor – is all about prioritizing enjoyment and satisfaction in food. In a culture that teaches us the opposite, that can feel odd, but can be transformative in how we approach food and eating.
The same is true for movement. Recently in talking with a client she expressed sort of hitting the doldrums with exercise and activity lately. This is a common occurrence that I hear about often this time of year. As the cooler weather sets in and we aren't able to be outside and do our regular warmer weather activities it makes sense that our motivation and enjoyment might wane a bit, especially given the challenges and difficulties we have all faced over the last two years.
Even if you are someone whose chosen activities aren't outside, this just naturally tends to be a time of year when things slow down, and we want to snuggle in. Guess what? That's ok! It is natural and just part of the ebb and flow of seasons and how we respond. What is not ok is how we beat ourselves up about it. That ultimately isn't helpful and only drives our lack of desire to care for ourselves by moving our body in enjoyable ways.
The following are four things to think about to help you get out of a movement rut.
Try something new.
A great way to break out of a rut is to breathe some freshness and excitement into it. The client I mentioned above is someone who has her regular activities she enjoys but like so many of us over the last 2 years those regular activities have been disrupted. So, she and I brainstormed some new activities she might like to try. Not too long after our brainstorming sesh I was so happy to get a text from her saying she had tried out the new activity and signed up to do it again a couple of days later.
It is human nature, because of a normal psychological phenomenon called habituation, to get tired of the same old same old. Habituation is “the diminishing of a physiological or emotional response to a frequently repeated stimulus.” It is because of habituation that leftovers lose their luster after a time or two and that new car doesn’t seem quite as exciting 6 months later as it did the first day you drove it home.
Habituation can also happen with the things we choose to do for activity. Incorporating something new can make all the difference. Maybe you consider something you used to do and enjoy but haven’t done in a while or maybe it is a new activity you have been interested in trying but haven’t yet. Have your own brainstorming session to breathe some new life into what you choose to do for movement.
Food for thought: What is something new or different you'd like to try and how can you take action to do it?
Be aware of all-or-nothing thinking.
Many of us approach health behaviors whether that be around food, movement, or any other self-care activity, with all-or-nothing thinking. All-or-nothing thinking is a common cognitive distortion where we see things in absolutes. It's either black or white, good or bad, right or wrong, total success or total failure. There is no in-between and no shades of gray.
One client I was talking to recently realized that when he thinks of movement, specifically in the morning before work, he thinks of getting up super early and spending a large chunk of time fitting in an extended workout. He had come to the realization though that it wasn't really necessary for him to get up at 5 am and do an hour workout. He could get up at a more reasonable hour and maybe do something for 15-20 minutes and that would be more than he is doing now.
Recognizing our tendencies toward this way of thinking and actively choosing to approach our habits in a different way is how we can shift away from all or nothing thinking. By moving away from this perfectionistic, all in or nothing at all thinking, we allow for more nuance and balance and are able to move out of feeling stuck and instead open up and see all the many possibilities.
Food for thought: Do you have a tendency to approach activity from this all or nothing perspective? Are your efforts at movement either 100% or nothing at all? How can you instead shift your thinking and find the middle ground?
Being in nature, no matter if you are moving or not, is beneficial. Being active outdoors is a positive double whammy for our mind and body that goes above and beyond what we can reap by staying inside. I have experienced this myself with an outdoor headphone yoga class I've been doing at Goodwood. (Find out more on Instagram @outdooryogatallhassee or read about it here.) I love yoga no matter where I am, but there is just something extra about being outside and being able to look up and see the beautiful blue skies and grand oak trees and hear the birds chirping. It is an extra boost of goodness that feels even better than the yoga I do indoors.
The benefits are well-researched and very clear. Being active outdoors has been shown to reduce anger, depression, and stress levels, and improve mood and self-esteem. It can also help you sleep better and can make moving more enjoyable. Some of these benefits may be partially due to the shot of vitamin D we get when we are outside. No matter the reasons behind it, moving our bodies outdoors is a good thing and worth considering.
Food for thought: How can you get outside and move? Maybe it's taking a walk at lunch, taking your yoga mat outside for a quick – or long – session, or doing some gardening? What sounds good to you?
Find fun and enjoyment.
Lastly, but possibly most important of all, is to discover ways to move your body that are fun. We could all use a little more fun and joy in our lives and often we don't look at movement or physical activity as an opportunity to have fun, but instead something we should do or have to do. It only makes sense that we would dread something we view from this perspective.
Joyful movement is the main focus of the 9th principle of Intuitive Eating: This 9th principle – Movement-Feel the Difference – is all about tuning in to how movement feels in your body and finding types of activities that feel good to your body, are fun, and help you feel empowered and joyful.
I have mentioned in previous blogs that I love to play tennis. I don’t play to burn calories or because I “need” to exercise, I play because I love it. It makes me laugh and smile and enriches my life in many ways. When we can reframe using our bodies in physical ways to be about fun and enjoyment it can change our whole perspective and inspire and motivate us rather than being something that we dread and put off.
Food for thought: Think about what types of movement bring you joy and make you smile. How could you do that activity or activities more?
I hope you will consider these four ideas to help you see movement in a different way. Our bodies are amazing and capable of so much. Moving them consistently and regularly in whatever way you find enjoyable is a way of honoring and better caring for them. Which one of these tips resonated most and how can you put it into action this week?