Mindfulness and Finding Life Balance – Part 9 – Fitness and Mindfulness

Staying Fit Supports Mindfulness

The old adage “sleep begets sleep” applies to exercise too: the more active you are the more active you’ll want be.

According to the staff of the Mayo Clinic, every time we move we’re essentially relieving stress. Scientist have shown that any form of exercise can boost our endorphins and keep our daily worries at bay.

But, not everyone is an athlete, or even athletic, for that matter. Even if you don’t have a gym membership or belong to a yoga group, just walking, house cleaning or yard work are all forms of aerobic activity. You just have to do enough of it, and with the right mindset.

So how can the act of moving prevent burn out and keep us mindful? Burn out is the imbalance of inputs and outputs. If we put out too much energy and have little or nothing to show for it, we feel depleted because there is no corresponding mental balance to offset the physical effort. Exercise can replenish us because it is something good that we are doing for ourselves and, in turn, we receive direct benefits.

The adrenaline can pep us up but, more importantly, afterwards the endorphins can relieve our daily tensions and make us feel good.

Lately, the medical literature has noted that mindfulness is a key ingredient to being happy. In a special report published by the Harvard Health Publication “Mindfulness” is referred to the practice purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment.

A key goal of any mindfulness activity is to achieve a state of alert relaxation by deliberately paying attention to our thoughts and sensations without bias. Mindfulness uses meditation as a technique to calm the body and ease the mind from racing thoughts.

Being “In the Zone”

Likewise focused exercise has been shown to clear the mind of unnecessary distractions and stressors. Regular, focused exercise can definitely support mindful practice by emptying our mind of what we can’t control and allowing our mind to refocus on what we are actively doing.

Athletes sometimes call this “being in the zone,” which is similar to mindfulness concepts (see my earlier blogs).

Here are some ways that staying fit can bust through our stress, prevent burnout and keep us mindful:

  • Motion is like meditation. Activity can help you forget the traffic jam you were in this morning and concentrate on your body in action.
  • World becomes clear: Fitness can give us more optimism and bandwidth. Our inner world feels calmer and everything around us more clear.
  • Mood over madness: Exercising regularly acts as a relaxant while giving us more life satisfaction and wellbeing. It can stimulate positivity and lower the effects of depression or anxiety.
  • A runner’s high: Exercise helps pump up our endorphins (as well as adrenaline), our feel-good brain transmitters. You don’t have run to experience this high; there is also hiking, gardening, volley ball and mopping the floor. Just concentrate and keep your hear trate up for a few minutes a day.
  • On top of the world: Making fitness a top priority also gives us more command over our life circumstances and body. It is the only “medication” that reduces our frustration, opens our senses, makes us aware of our bodily sensations and increases our capacity to stay present.

If you are thinking of adding exercise to your regime, consult your physician, start gradually, make it a labor of love and repeat on a sensible schedule.

Whatever you do, don’t think of exercise as “have to,” but rather make it enjoyable. You deserve to unwind, stay in touch and ease your stress levels.

References

Positive Psychology: Harnessing the Power of Happiness, Personal Strength, and Mindfulness, a special health report published by Harvard Health Publications

Book: Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, Mayo Clinic Healthy Lifestyle Stress Management Publication

How to Reduce Stress with Exercise (video)

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