The way that you think can have massive repercussions on your tendency to stay physically active. What goes on in your mind influences what you do with your body. That’s why it is so critical to have the right mental habits. You want to approach exercise with the same passion and excitement as you might going out with friends. But, how do you get to that terrific mental state? To help you, here are eight mental tricks for staying active.
1. Take more time outdoors
Spending time outside is something that can help relieve a lot of the tension and stress. After all, humans aren’t supposed to live in air-conditioned boxes their entire lives.
People generally function best when the day includes time out in nature, enjoying being in the natural environment. Simply being outside can give you more energy and strengthen your sense of self.
2. Mental trick: Stay active by starting with small workouts
Some people believe that they need to go all-out when they hit the gym and do grueling workouts every time. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
You don’t have to do anything super taxing, especially if you’re a beginner. In fact, committing to smaller workouts is probably better for your long-term chances of success.
The problem is this: many people try to go too hard, too soon. Their brains then learn to associate exercise with pain, and that means more chance of working out too hard and risking injury.
Mini workouts get around this problem, provided you don’t overdo it. In this case, you’re not challenging yourself to the extreme, and so exercise becomes a much less taxing part of your life.
Physical activity doesn’t have to be super difficult all the time. It’s okay to make it easier from time to time so that you enjoy it.
3. Forget goals
Many people will tell you that you need goals to be active. But, again, that’s not always the case.
In fact, for many people, this process is counterproductive. It becomes all about the goals themselves, and not the enjoyment of the exercise.
Think about it this way: there’s a big difference between going to the gym for weight loss and just going there because you like it. You’ll naturally resent the first mindset while embracing the second one.
Goals can also turn physical activity into a chore. Telling yourself that you’re going to do 10,000 steps or run for 30 minutes on the treadmill means that you’re always watching the clock.
It’s not about enjoying the feeling of being active. It’s just about hitting numerical targets. For most people, that sort of approach isn’t sustainable.
A better idea for some people is to just choose something that you really like and go with it. You’ll naturally remain super active because you’re enjoying it. It won’t just feel like another chore for you to do after work.
For me, that’s gardening! It keeps me active and brings a lot of enjoyment to my life.
4. Be open to new types of activity
You don’t always have to stick with traditional workouts or sports to stay active. In fact, it can help to be open to new forms of activity to keep things fresh.
There are plenty of unusual sports out there you can choose from. Pickleball is a good example. This game is a cross between tennis and squash and is played over a low net.
You’ll need pickleball shoes and a paddle to start out. But once you have those basics in place, you’re ready to go.
Bowls or lawn bowling is another great sport for keeping people active. It’s a low-impact activity and great if you’re a little older or need something that won’t damage your knees.
You could even try your hand at the ancient sport of fencing. Quick reaction times are a must for this one.
Being open to new forms of exercise prevents your routine from becoming stale. You’re constantly adapting, trying to overcome challenges.
5. More mental tricks: Go with the flow to stay active
Many people believe that they need to stick rigidly to exercise plans. But if you take a look at many of the most successful people in the exercise realm, they don’t have an itinerary.
They’re not carrying around little notebooks recording what they’ve done. Instead, they are listening to their bodies and going with the flow.
You’re not going to feel like working out every time you hit the gym. Some days, you’ll feel fresh, while other times, you’ll be lethargic.
That’s why people who train long-term learn to trust what their bodies are saying to them. If they’ve done too much exercise, that’s okay.
They’ll just take a day off and get back to it tomorrow. Likewise, if they are feeling sluggish, they won’t hit the weights so hard that it makes them feel sick.
Going with the flow ultimately means being flexible and opportunistic. Sometimes, your schedule won’t allow you to exercise for the full hour (or whatever you normally do). So being flexible allows you to get some training in to your schedule, even if it isn’t as much as you would like.
Other times, you’ll need to take advantage of opportunities as they come along. For instance, if you can take a walk at lunchtime instead of sitting at your computer, you should do so.
If you’re working from home, you can even take advantage of your home’s layout. Just walk up and down the stairs every hour or so after going to the bathroom or making a drink. Even this small amount of activity can make a tremendous difference.
6. Skip workouts consciously
Some people skip workouts in an unconscious manner. They either sleep late or just keep sitting on the couch when they get home, never going to the gym.
However, skipping workouts should ideally be something you control personally. Saying no to workouts is okay if you’re feeling tired and drained.
Usually, it is a sign from your body that you need to spend some time resting and recuperating. There’s also a lot to be side for taking an active recovery day.
If you decide to do a workout in the morning, you can try getting your gym bag ready the night before. That way it’s ready to go when you need it.
7. Avoid repeating the same workouts
Doing the same workout day after day gets a little tedious after a while. And, from a purely exercise science perspective, it is also less than optimal.
Your body is very good at adapting to external stimuli. So, if you keep repeating the same workouts, it won’t grow and adapt how you would like it to.
People often bust their butts for months in the gym without seeing the results that they want from it. The culprit is usually a lack of variation in the workout.
Some exercisers believe that they need to stick with a set program rigidly. But when it comes to training, there is no one-size-fits-all. Everyone’s different, and so the way they train ought to be different too.
Sometimes, doing gentler exercises can be better than doing more physical activities. For instance, you may find that you have more progress when doing yoga than regular jogging.
The key point is this: empowering yourself to do whatever exercise you need and want to do makes excuses not to do it significantly less likely to happen in the long term.
8. Avoid all-or-nothing mentalities
Many people hit the gym believing that their health routine has to be perfect. The need to eat and train a certain way to get any benefits whatsoever. This form of perfectionism, however, is a subtle form of self-sabotage.
Nobody can stick to a program perfectly, even Olympic athletes. So eventually, you’re going to fail in some way.
Worse still, this failure could trigger conversations in your mind such as “I’m too lazy to follow an exercise program” or “I don’t have the willpower to stay active.” These types of narratives then feed into excuses for why you shouldn’t do any exercise in the first place.
Instead of adopting a harsh all-or-nothing attitude, try leaning into your exercise schedule instead. Just do what you can and forget all about making it perfect.
Little changes done consistently can add up to big effects in the long run. Just because you’re not hitting the gym today doesn’t mean you’ve failed overall. Sometimes it helps to just take a break!
Concluding words on mental tricks to stay active
So, these are some of the mental habits that you can use to keep active. As you can see, it is mainly about taking a more relaxed and laid-back approach to physical activity.
Ideally, you don’t want to think of it as exercise at all. Instead, it is just something that you do to remain active or healthy.
Generally, avoid going “all in” with any program. If you do that, you’re likely to put yourself under too much pressure. You don’t have to be perfect.
Also, avoid having to make too many decisions. Choose a simple direction and stick with it.
So, which of these mental tricks for staying active will you be trying?