Sunday, January 8, 2017

Harnessing the Power of Positivity...and a Look at Resolutions

This is a little long but bear with me for five minutes...maybe you can learn something from my struggles and mistakes:-)

Here we are, a week down the road of a new year. If you set New Year's Resolutions, are you staying consistent? If you answered yes, you are like 72% of the population who keeps their resolutions through the end of week one. Unfortunately, those numbers decrease with each passing week. So, how do we (yes, I am included in this!) maintain those new habits or resolutions when the excitement and motivation begin to die down? Most new and challenging endeavors can be carried out on the mental adrenaline that accompanies great accomplishment. When we are engaging in something hard and actually achieving a goal or seeing results, we are pumped up with the desire and excitement to continue. However, as the newness wears off, the initial drive that accompanied the challenge begins to fade, and life seems to settle into the same old routine, it is so easy to fall back into old patterns. I know I am guilty of this trend and oh how defeating that can feel.

So, what am I suggesting? Well, it's a lesson I have had to learn and experience on more than one occasion. I remember distinctly the last time it happened and it was so discouraging. Though I talk about exercise a lot, it is not a habit I love or enjoy most of the time. I am consistent and I do it because I know how important it is and I know I need to do it. However, if those are the only motivators, it's awfully hard to whole-heartedly engage and maintain the habit. Last year sometime in the spring, I was stuck in a rut of being grouchy every morning around 5:45 when I would drag myself from my coffee and quiet time to head down to the work out room to exercise. Day after day, it was the part of my morning that I hated. My husband frequently commented on my downcast looks and kind of laughed - "just don't do it if it makes you so mad". Yep. Bad attitude on my part. So, after a lengthy pattern of this, I made the decision that I simply wasn't going to allow this to be my reality anymore. I am a trained counselor, so why was I finding it so hard to change those cognitions and put different behaviors in place when that is exactly what I would counsel someone else to do? Hello Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Rarely is it that easy though. I had to push those negative "I hate exercise" thoughts out of my mind every single day. But, as I did so every day, I replaced those thougths with mental images of "I can do this and I will". As the pattern formed in my mind, it became easier and easier until it wasn't so much of a chore as it was a habit. Awesome, I've got this.

Then gradually, though my mental motivation remained intact, my physical body started complaining. Seriously? I had finally gotten over the fight in my head and now the fight of my body was screaming for me to slow down. Health issues that I struggled with became worse...my knees hurt constantly, my iron was so low that going up and down the stairs was exhausting, and I felt fatigued all the time. I backed away from any intense exercise and did a minimum. There were many days when I did no exercise. I came up with the excuse that my body needed a break and couldn't maintain the pattern of exercise I was trying to keep up with. When I didn't feel up to working out, I just didn't. And you know what? My mental motivation slowly disappeared until I no longer had any drive. I did the absolute minimum amount of exercise I could without totally abandoning it. I was back to square one. And that's how it goes so much of the time isn't it?

This continued for months. As the colder months arrived, I started to experience more discomfort, symptoms of health issues I have had for years. With my healthy diet and lifestyle, it's crazy that I have any health issues at all! But it could be worse. A lot worse. I claimed in my mind that a daily walk was all I could do, my joints were swollen and inflamed, push-ups and pull-ups and squats hurt, gripping weights exacerbated my pain, I was so tired, I didn't have enough extra time. So many excuses.

And then as the new year approached, I started working on that negative self-talk. What is wrong with me that I can't get over this mentality? I remembered how it felt to push through that mental jargon and arrive successfully on the other side. I can do this. If I can get past this mental block, I can force myself to achieve the physical side. In fact, I WILL do this. It's all about harnessing that power of positivity...thinking in terms of what I can do to make things different rather than focusing on all the negative reasons I can't. I love the Scripture in Philippians "Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am" (Philippians 4:13 The Message) -   I don't think Paul was talking about exercise here but I think I can apply it to any aspect of my life! Christ is ultimately who provides me with what I need to thrive and he ultimately gives me the strength to carry out his plan for me. And quite honestly, I  don't think he intended for me to live my life grumbling or complaining about anything simply because it feels too hard.

So for me, this first week of January has been invigorating. I have pushed through every day with a new mindset. A pattern of saying "I WILL" instead of "I can't because xyz". My joints still hurt. There's still a lot of inflammation in my hands and feet. My knees still hate me. But the power of feeling positive about pushing past that feels amazing! Going for an ivigorating (ie. freezing!) couple mile walk followed by picking up those weights or pressing through those push-ups and squats...is not only giving me a physical workout. It's causing me to do a mental workout. This isn't about me doing a good job or being great at exercising though. Instead, this is all about choosing a mindset that allows me to do the things that are important to me and that push me to do more than what's easy. I am convinced that I am meant to thrive in this life. I am doing all I can with the strength God provides to move beyond what's comfortable and achieve wellness in every aspect of my life. I hope you will do the same!

If you read this whole missive, I hope you can be encouraged to learn from my struggles and harness that power of positivity - you won't regret it!

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