This is really about the ability to empower yourself and coincidentally can apply to workout resolutions, but can also apply to any resolution you have decided to make for this year, be it personal or career oriented. Famous philosopher Alan Watts once said it is impossible to force anything to happen, just as you can’t force a apple tree to produce apples. You can however, water the tree and make sure it has the right environment in order for it to blossom. The same principle can apply to losing weight or increasing strength. The premise being that if you force yourself to do something it may keep you dedicated to that activity for a little while, but eventually you will begin to see the activity as a drag and quit. So in a similar way if you want to change your diet or lose weight then you have to create the right conditions for that to happen. The reward for setting a goal or resolution isn’t the outcome, but rather the experience. For instance here at Set and Flow Yoga we tell our students that they are already beautiful, developing a six pack or losing weight isn’t going to enhance or diminish that, the workout is just a celebration. Sounds super granola, so like most of our blogs it will be backed my subjective footnotes and objective to satisfy both sides of the brain. We will start with the mental, move to the technological and finish with the practical.
1. Cognitive Framing.
How can you change the way you view something? Some say it starts in the past as a memory, a loop that plays over and over in the mind creating a loop. According to epigenetics, which tells us that we are a sum of all our experiences. Everything that happens lays down tracks in our bodies and mind, so in essence the story we tell ourselves is the story that becomes our mantra or pattern. So, if you view a resolution as a chore or a check list that must be completed, this can create a physiological stress response, which can increase cortisol and trigger anxiety, in this view it makes absolute sense to quit, so that the stress stops. A concept like cognitive framing can rescue from this downward spiral. What we tell ourselves, images, rhetoric and environment can change your physiological response to your resolution. Changing your chemical response from negative to positive by simply viewing it through a different lens is something like anything else requires attention, you can choose to pay attention or tell yourself a new story, we can change our patterns, physically and mentally. This may take a while though and we don’t have a lot of time. Which brings us to tip number 2.
2. Cultivate a rich social network.
This was written about in another blog and is something that could be helpful in your pursuit of cognitive framing. By using the technological tools of today which include a multitude of social media platforms you can imprint that which you seek. The human mind works in such a way that the more images you see, the more video you consume, and the more you interact with the topic you are curious about, the more you are likely to become passionate about it. Once you become passionate about an activity, it goes without saying that you will become committed to that activity. Say for example, you have always wanted to go to a group fitness class, but at the last minute you change your mind, or get discouraged that you might not know enough to be in the class, let alone participate in the class. Steven Kotler, best selling author of Rise of the Superman wrote an article in Forbes stating that,“Passion exists in the intersection of multiple things you are curious about.” So where does one start? We live in a world where by the click of a button you can make Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr. accounts and flood your feed with images that will support the things you are curious about. By allowing these images to fuel your passion, you can design an environment for your mind that will take the idea of going to a hot yoga class and turn it from a task into an experience to look forward to. Give the technology you consume a plus rather than minus, meaning rather than thinking of instagram, snapchat, Facebook, as something that is detrimental, flip it and use it for what you want to encourage in your life. Truth be told it’s what the yogis/fitness/artists/writers of today are doing, they are mediating and co-authoring their own subjective experience and interacting with others who do the same. In other words they are creating their own story. All well and good bro, but I’m off the grid like Mr. Robot, which brings us to practical tip number 3.
3. Create small goals.
Say I’m going to change my life and lose 40 pounds in 3 months. If this bold claim isn’t backed up by specifics or a behavioral pattern then it is simply gobbledigook. A vision board on your wall full of your ideal desires is all well and good, but if it is never backed up by action it becomes wallpaper. Actor Denzel Washington paraphrased it best “Dreams without goals are just dreams, goals cannot be achieved without discipline and consistency.” So now that we know goals can be used to achieve what you want and is incredibly practical, would you rather create huge goals that seem insurmountable and give yourself a reason to quit because it seems impossible, or chop that goal down to smaller pieces so that they can be executed. In fitness there is a technique that teachers use to illicit a response from students, one of these techniques is called “negative reinforcement” which in simple terms means you are lessening the psychological or physiological stress from the activity or drill in class. For example, rather than counting up in class during cardio as in 1…2…3…4, we ask our teachers to count down, so that psychologically the time left is being taken away rather than added on. Metaphorically speaking it would be like saying in class “It’s all downhill,” or “you are at the finish line.” As opposed to “I don’t know how much longer we have,” or “The end is nowhere near.” This strategy could also extend to how you plan your own goals. For example, by saying to yourself I am going to take three classes a week, cut back on sugar and as a result will lose weight. It is specific and much more executable because it has been reframed in way that is not overwhelming. The reward for yoga class and group fitness class is not the losing of the weight, it is the experience of being in class and learning how you move. By combining all three of these tips, it may just help you achieve the goals you are looking to accomplish.