Excercise is not just physical, it's mental too

Mind over matter

Oh, the stories we tell ourselves.

Could they be hurting us? Few are kind and helpful. Most often, the endless ticker-tape of thought gets stuck on the difficult and the negative. Self-criticism seems rampant and we often under-estimate what we do.

We may believe the nature of our inner thoughts is private and doesn’t matter. But that isn’t true. Our thoughts do matter, and they have an effect on our lives, maybe more than we know.

Becoming aware of the tendencies of our minds, and knowing we can change critical or negative thought patterns to support our health and happiness, is powerful medicine.

At this time of year, many people are making resolutions. Often, these resolutions involve our physical health; we resolve to quit a bad habit, eat better or exercise more.

If health is a focus of your choices for change in 2023, you may want to change your mind, or more accurately, ensure your mindset is augmenting any of the physical changes you decide to make.

Do you want to receive greater benefit from the exercise you’re already doing? Our mindsets matter. Adding some punch to your exercise may be as simple as engaging your mind.

What we think about our physical activity and exercise makes a difference. Our bodies are always listening and responding to our thoughts, beliefs, and expectations. This can help or hinder our health, depending on which mental tape we’re running.

I’ve long been intrigued by research into the body-mind connection and the effects our thoughts have on our health. Reflecting on research conducted on a group of hotel housekeepers whose jobs were physically demanding is revealing. Exercise was inherent in their work, but many of them didn’t recognize it.

Two-thirds of the group said they didn’t exercise regularly, with one-third reporting they did no exercise at all. These housekeepers had active jobs, but they weren’t aware of it.

As part of the study, half the group were then told their work provided them with good exercise, according to the Surgeon General’s requirements, and the other half wasn’t made aware of that fact.

Four weeks after learning their level of activity at work qualified as a good workout, the benefits were apparent. Not only did the housekeepers who learned about the exercise they were getting, via their work, see themselves as more active than at the start of the trial, they had lost weight, and had reduced blood pressures compared to the other half.

Nothing changed but their minds and their awareness. Their bodies responded to what they now knew. They didn’t just feel more active, their bodies reflected the benefits of their new knowledge without any change to their activity level.

Our bodies and our minds are connected. Our bodies respond to the messages they receive from our minds.

What kind of messages are you sending your body? Would you ever think of speaking to another person the way you speak to yourself?

When we start paying attention to the good things we’re doing, acknowledging the positive instead of focusing on the challenge, it amplifies the effects we hope to achieve.

One of the best resolutions we could make is to start with mental hygiene. Learning to be more encouraging and kind to ourselves supports, not only our mental health, but our physical health as well.

Happy New Year.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

An assistant minister at the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, she is a retired nurse with a master’s degree in health science and is a hospice volunteer.  She is also an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan and currently spends her time teaching smartUBC, a unique mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. 

She is a speaker and presenter and from her diverse experience and knowledge, both personally and professionally, she has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people gain a new perspective, awaken and recognize we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts, stress or to life. We are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 44 years and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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