Enjoy a delightful walk, or run, while listening to something you find uplifting, positive & inspiring. Piedmont Park in Downtown Atlanta, July 17, 2021. Photo courtesy of Charly Caldwell II
People often use the mind and the brain in interchangeable terms.
However, they are very different.
The brain is the control center for the body. It sends and receives signals from inside and outside the body to help you act, react, and interact with the world.
From a functionality standpoint, the brain enables you to breathe, eat, sleep, move and perform daily living activities.
The mind helps oversee the brain, and establishes the quality of the messages sent from the brain to the body.
The mind processes your thoughts, feelings and emotions, which then influence the signals sent by your brain to your body.
Therefore, the health and state of your mind directly affects your performance, fitness, and overall well being.
Negative messages in the mind can elicit emotions such as sadness, anger, and frustration.
These unpleasant emotions change your brain chemistry and directly affect your nervous system.
For example, feelings of anxiety and worry, have been linked to increased heart rate, increased muscle tension and sweating.
Therefore, it is impossible to view the mind, body and brain as separate entities because each has a direct effect on the other.
To be our best physically, just as we train a muscle, we must exercise our minds:
Corrective exercise for the mind begin with identifying destructive mental habits and patterns.
Begin by paying attention to any recurring negative thoughts or emotions you have throughout the day and journal them in a notebook.
For example, you may feel anxious and have recurring thoughts about the knee pain you tend to get after running a couple of miles.
Or, you may realize that you always feel guilty after eating a piece of cake or desert. It doesn’t matter the subject of your thoughts, but rather the negative mindset that accompanies them.
Introduce new mental habits. Look at the list of negative thoughts and emotions written down.
Now stretch yourself mentally by considering alternative and
positive ways to think about the same topics.
For example, with our runner, an optimistic alternative to the destructive thoughts could be ‘I have been consistently doing my therapy and the cause of my knee pain is being addressed. I’m doing a great job of making sure my knee doesn’t hurt when I run’.
Alternatively, in the case of the guilty eater, a more positive way to think about having a piece of cake would be ‘It’s my friend’s birthday.
I feel extremely grateful to be celebrating their special day and enjoying a piece of cake with them’.
Reinforcing new positive mental habits.
Just as you train your body, train your mind. When you find yourself engaged in a negative thought process, replace it promptly with the positive one you created.
As you would any exercise program, begin this transformation gradually.
Identify one negative thought per day and replace it with a positive one.
As your self-confidence grows, increase the number of repetitions you perform each day of replacing destructive thoughts with positive ones.
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