I have always approached exercise from one of two positions: how I look or overall health. Unfortunately both of these reasons have the unfortunate fact of providing benefits in the future. And benefits in the future are harder to work for. The bad wolf thrives when the cause and effect gap is wide. The harder it is to tie our effort to some positive benefit the harder it is to motivate ourselves to do it.
However when I began to frame exercise not in terms of health or body image, but in terms of happiness a shift started to happen.
Exercise is so widely tied to happiness and well being that I scarcely need to explain the connection here.. It is nearly as well accepted as the earth being round. If you really need more convincing check here, here andhere.
Every time I exercise, I feel better afterwards. I may not feel good during, especially if I am returning to it after a layoff, but I feel good after. I feel like I have done something good and I feel better in my body. My mood has improved to some degree.
And this is a benefit that I feel now. I don’t have to wait 3 months to like how my body looks or feel like I have postponed a heart attack 10 years in the future. My gratification is nearer to immediate. (Yes, developing the delayed gratification muscle is crucial but easy wins are important.)
Reframing exercise as a happiness tool makes it easier to do.
If you are reading this you are likely in one of two camps. Either you are looking for support in keeping your exercise program going or you are trying to get started.
If you are in the former camp then add happiness to your list of reasons why and get out there.
If you are in the other camp you have slightly more difficult climb.
Try the NOW Rule
If you are reading this and are not exercising currently try this. From wherever you are (unless you are driving) do something NOW. Hop down and do two pushups under your desk. Walk aroud your office for 2 mniutes at a decent pace. Give me 10 jumping jacks. Don’t consider it, don’t weigh it, just do it. NOW!
Ok…did you do it? If not then start over at the top or go read the sports page because none of this is going to help you.
If you did, do you feel even a bit better than before you did it? You took a small step. Enjoy it, feel good about it. Tell the voice that says its nothing to “Zip It”.
Now you need to build from that step. Add one more pushup, one more jumping jack, one more trip around the office next time. It’s a cliche but it’s damn true: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, or pushup in this case.
One of my key rules on feeding your good wolf is that momentum is extremely important. Get moving somehow, the next step becomes easier.
So wrapping up, I find it easier to make exercise a priority when I focus on the benefit of being happier now, then when I think of it as an activity that benefits me somewhere down the road.