Are you stuck in a rut?
Do you “love” your life, or think that there is something “missing”?
Do you want to improve your health and wellbeing, but put it off till “next week” – and another week goes by?
Whatever you are disgruntled with, have a little read of this and see if it resonate with you, and inspires you to make that step change.
The first step is to sit down, take a deep breath, and then have a think. Look around you. Close your eyes and imagine what you want to do. The environment around us, influences our health and wellbeing in so many ways.
For example, have you had a good plan to start to change your fitness, and then find you put it off or are side-tracked, or you lose to motivation?
Have you felt stressed and anxious and can’t find a way out of it?
Are you tired all the time and sleep does not help?
Does this come from “inside” you or is it influenced by your “outside” world – bear with me here. What we know is that your surroundings influence you. You want to go for a run, but you just have a quick peep at social media, and 30 minutes later, the time has gone, and the run did not happen. And you now have a headache. Or, you think about going for a walk, but you don’t know any “good” places to go, and you don’t have the right shoes, and so you plan to buy walking boots before you go for that walk, but the shops are too expensive and so you will wait for the sale and then another month goes by……
Getting the “outside” bit right, is crucial to us moving forward when our internal drive to do exercise, change lifestyle, eat better strikes. This is known as the “Restorative Environment” and has long been considered to be key to supporting our health and wellbeing. This is nothing new. One of the main papers on this was done in 1992 (and many before that), by Kaplan[i] who said that “peoples’ behaviour depends upon the models of the world that they carry around in their head” – or think of it like this. When we get excited by something that “lights up” our brains - think of the recent win by Wrexham, and the sheer joy of the people surrounded by so much emotion, and just viewing the whole spectacle – where there you like football, or even support Wrexham – gives you a massive “glow” of Happiness. Ryan Reynolds called it “ the most romantic thing on earth” – so how can you “fall back in love” with life?
So how do we go about creating world we can love?
Kaplan states 4 steps:
Step 1 - Get away, or a “change is as good as a rest” as they say. Think about changing your walking route, your exercise choice. Go visit somewhere new. Let your brain have a think to see new things. Even moving the furniture around helps.
Step 2 – Extend your horizons. Basically, if you make little changes, that helps, but really pushing the boundaries to a “whole new world” helps you connect with your change. This does not have to be a physical space, but think of times when you have lost yourself in a book and you miss the characters when the book is finished. It is more about a deeper connection with your “getting away” from your normal routine.
Step 3 – Find some thing fascinating. Being totally absorbed in something, where you lose track of time is magical. My friend finds this with gardening, and I find gardening a “chore” that needs to be done (!!) so there is no right or wrong here. What I think you can do to help this, and it is something we talk about and encourage in the Café’s is to find your “happy place” - and that is to make part of your home/garden an area where you like to sit/read/think/exercise etc. Make an effort here. Make it look like something YOU want to go to and spend time in. Try to avoid think about what it “should” look like, use your imagination, and include all of the things that you love.
Step 4 – creating your “happy place” sits well with Kaplan’s “compatibility” – maybe you like flowers and prints, maybe you like clean lines, or retro. You make your area compatible with your feelings of belonging to the space. Try it. It really becomes fascinating, and it won’t cost the earth as you probably have many of the items around your house, and all that is needed is half a day set aside to carve out that space.
These little changes influence what is known as our “mood states” – or how we have negative aspects of our thoughts – and how we can change them. It was this part of fitness that made me go into my degree.
HOW to get people to exercise. We all know what to do, but then why don’t we just get up and do it?? I initially got super frustrated that the exercise programmes and diet advice was met with a reluctance to change, and then not doing the programme and blaming the “programme” on lack of progress etc.
The psychology of change spark my brain for sure – and it continues to do so. These are some of the common negative thought processes that influence our behaviour, and they also give us an opportunity to change the “environment” so that we remove the barrier, and be able to move forwards. How do we inhibit impulsive, and sometimes, destructive behaviour (to our fitness training).
a. People can sometimes feel tension or anxiety when the think about going to the gym or an exercise class – and I think that this has increased since lockdown where we all became more isolated.
b. These may be feelings that we are not “good enough” to complete the exercises. Or that we don’t “want to look stupid” by making a mistake or going the wrong way. Or that we are body conscious and feel everyone will be looking at us and comparing our bodies etc
c. This type of anxiety can be crippling for many and stop us exercising. I have found that online teaching really makes a difference here, because you can do this at home, be as loud as you like, wear what you like, make mistakes that no-one will see, and learn at your own pace. I always thought that I would give up online teaching after lockdown, but I love it.
d. There is one issue to do with motivation for online, as we can often delay doing the exercise, and then start to feel guilty about not doing it, and then that guilt makes you not even think about starting it. Try to modify this type of anxiety, as no one knows how much you “missed” it is there to help you, and start when you can be the best way to do this.
2. Feeling low mood
we can sometime link a low mood or depression of our “excitement2 to exercise when we become disappointed in our selves what we did not reach our “goal”. Whether that was to start exercising, or lose weight, or do walking/meditation/weight training/aerobics. Anything we set ourselves as a goal, but we feel we didn’t do it well.
a. Try to frame your language to support your change. For example, it is not really going to be helpful to constantly say to yourself “I’m hopeless” or “I can’t do it.” This negative talk influences our behaviour, and our desire to change.
b. Stating more encouraging words can help – “Keep going,” “don’t worry,” you can do this – small changes to the environment in which you create will extend your resilience. Start today by noticing the negative phrases you use, and flip them to encouraging ones.
3. Maybe instead of feeling down, you actually get angry! This can be directed inward where you can berate yourself, or outward where you can “blame” the trainer for not getting you to your goal etc
a. Use your anger to fight your frustration. Take it out on some exercise – ideally near water or tress which are found to create a feeling of calm more frequently than other environments.
4. Maybe you lose your mojo – that feeling of having to drag yourself around, of feeling tired after a night’s sleep and an all-over malaise where you have “no energy” to exercise
a. Light can be of great benefit here. Think about 10 minutes sunlight in the morning, and then bright lights in the day and a darker, candlelit environment in the evening. Think about solar lights in the garden to sit out when you can. Look at the night sky, change your body clock, reduce the blue light from electronics and eat wall.
b. Maybe look at some extra help from additional vitamins – magnesium, Vit D and C, plus folic acid really help. And for a different kind of energy boost, consider looking into taking creatine which has been shown to improve brain function.
5. The final one that puts us off is the confusion we can feel about us losing your way with exercise. Are we doing it “right,” is there a better way to train, should you be doing cardio or weights, should you be going to yoga or Pilates.
a. If you are unsure about what exercise to do, then build your environment, and expand your horizons by taking part in as many different exercise sessions that you can. If they bring you “joy” then stick with that.
b. Then think about the gains you will get – for example, I love the fact that weight training will help to keep my bones strong, and so I do it just for that. I do not weight train with the goal of changing my external features, but for the internal ones. That makes my weight training environment solid, long lasting, and always satisfying, because I feel I am “nurturing” my body. See if you can find something similar.
You are not alone in feeling frustrated at times. The good news is that building the world that you love will keep you feeling happy and motivated. I find this subject fascinating. Each year I do a specific Café around the “Restorative Environment,” and like last year, it will run through May and June in order that we can make the most of being outside, about developing our connection with the world that we live in and enhancing our health in a holistic way. Join me and the Café Crew if you wish. x
[i] The restorative environment: Nature and human experience. Kaplan, Stephen. 1992