How Mindfulness Can Help You Stay Motivated to Exercise

Practicing awareness can help you get in touch with your body—and the more pleasant side of exercise. Here are three tips to get you started.

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To savor delicious food, you have to pay attention to how it tastes. To move in ways that feels delicious, you have to bring your full attention to your bodily sensations. Whether you enjoy exercising or not, mindfulness can make the experience of moving your body a pleasurable one.

There can be some resistance to paying attention to your body, particularly if you and your body aren’t exactly on friendly terms. You may be unhappy with your body for the way it looks, the way it feels, or for not living up to your expectations. You might think you’re too busy to pay attention to the body and its needs for movement. Exercise may conjure up visions of the gym, being miserable doing some activity you don’t like, being around people who make you feel self-conscious (muscle-bound men and women in spandex), or being in pain. Using exercise exclusively for weight loss takes the pleasure out of the activity because the focus is on something besides how it makes you feel inside.

The three most important things you can do to make physical activity a delicious part of your life are to find something you truly like doing, to be fully present for the experience, and to visualize yourself as someone who moves her body.

The more present you are, the more likely you will be able to experience movement that feels delicious.

Make It Enjoyable

Take your time and explore different kinds of activity until you find what you really enjoy. If you can’t enjoy it, you won’t continue to do it over the long term. Remember to ease into any new activity, even if it is as simple as walking, so that you don’t injure yourself. Injuries definitely take the pleasure out of an activity. A little bit of movement scattered throughout your day is as good as a long workout at the end of the day.

Be Present

The more present you are, the more likely you will be able to experience movement that feels delicious. Be present with all of the sensations available to you. Let your body tell you when to do more and when to do less. Exercise doesn’t have to be painful to be good for you. Find ways of moving your body that feel delightful, without pain.

Visualize Yourself as an Active Person

There will be days when you won’t feel like getting your shoes on and going out for a walk or whatever activity you regularly choose to do. But, if you have the vision of yourself as someone who is physically active, there is something almost magical that happens. You don’t have to feel like doing it before you start. You don’t have to wait to hear, “Oh boy, I get to go take a walk.” On those days when your mind says, “I don’t feel like it,” the knowledge that you view yourself as someone who values exercise kicks in and you do it anyway. The deliciousness of the activity will soon have you engaged and enjoying it.

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