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The Biggest Reason We Don’t Stay on a Regular Exercise Habit

The Biggest Reason We Don’t Stay on a Regular Exercise Habit

BY LEO BABAUTA

There are so many benefits to exercise, from cancer prevention to brain health, from heart health to better weight management, from stronger bones to less stress and more happiness … so why is it so hard for most people to stick to a regular exercise habit?

It turns out that there’s really only one reason.

You might say you’re too busy, but if you spend any time on social media like Facebook, news sites, blogs, Netflix or Youtube … you have the time. You’re just choosing to do other things.

You might say you’re too tired, and that might be true … but actually, exercise results in having more energy over time, so the truth is that we’re prioritizing the short term over the long term when we skip exercise.

And this is the crux of the problem: we are making a choice to do other things over exercise.

It’s a choice, not a problem of time or energy.

Why are we making this choice to not exercise? If we dig down a bit deeper, it comes down to a belief that underlies the choice.

I’m going to steal from the Clean Slate blog, which talks about the myth of addiction being a disease … and says that instead, drug or alcohol use is a choice that comes down to one thing:

People freely choose to use drugs and alcohol because, at the time they’re doing it, they believe it will make them happy. At the time they do it, they believe it is their best available option for attaining happiness.

And in my experience, this is true. We have beliefs that power our choices, even if we don’t always know what those beliefs are.

What are your beliefs about exercise that are driving your habits? Here are some examples:

  • You believe that exercise is hard, and going online is easier and more fun.
  • You believe that if you’re tired, procrastinating or resting will make you happier than if you get off your butt and exercise.
  • You believe that If you’re busy, you’ll be happier if you put off exercise.

You might not actually say any of these out loud, or even admit them to yourself. But your heart believes them (or something similar), and you act on these beliefs.

When it comes down to it, you’ve been making choices based on these beliefs. And that’s what’s stopping you from sticking to a regular exercise habit.

The Good News

Here’s the good news: beliefs are malleable. They can be changed, by your mind. And by backing up your changed beliefs with action.

We hold strongly to our beliefs, but they aren’t set in stone. They are carved in clay.

Here are some beliefs you can try on instead, like a new costume:

  • I’m happier when I am outdoors and moving.
  • I’m happier when I exercise every day.
  • I feel stronger, more powerful, more empowered, more energized, when I exercise regularly.
  • I feel better about myself when I exercise.
  • I love the sense of accomplishment that comes with a good workout.
  • My health matters to me more than going online or watching things.

Say them to yourself. Write them down. Put them into action, and focus on the parts of the action that reinforce them.

In the end, it takes a little time to create new beliefs, but what you’re really doing is creating a new you. Tossing out your old beliefs and carving out new ones is worth the life you’ll be creating. (Try my Get Fit for Summer Challenge.)

My Get Active & Fit Course

If you’d like support for creating a new fitness habit, join my Sea Change Program … I’ve just started a 6-week video course called Get Active & Fit, where I’ll be doing video lessons and a live video webinar on creating a consistent fitness habit (or taking your current habit to the next level).

You can try the free 7-day trial.

We’ll be doing this challenge together, discussing the fitness habit supporting each other on the Sea Change forum, and doing small daily challenges to help people learn to be fit for life. Join Sea Change here to be a part of this program.


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The Get Fit For Summer Exercise Challenge

The Get Fit For Summer Exercise Challenge

BY LEO BABAUTA

I’m a big fan of exercise challenges.

I’ve used challenges to change my health and fitness habits, including:

  • Pushup challenges with my wife & kids
  • Burpee challenge with a friend
  • Online group exercise challenges
  • Workout and diet challenges with my wife (we got rewards if we stuck to the challenge)
  • Accountability challenges for eating

There have been many, actually, and they always get me motivated to get off my butt and get going. Sometimes that’s the push you need to get over the initial resistance.

So I’m issuing a challenge to all of you, to help you overcome your resistance.

Are you ready?

Here’s the challenge:

  1. Commit to doing some kind of exercise for just 5-10 minutes a day (to start with), for 6 weeks. Make a big commitment in your mind.
  2. Tell someone about it. Or many people.
  3. Do it for 10 minutes a day, trying to be mindful during the exercise and focusing on enjoying it with gratitude.
  4. Keep a simple log each day of the exercise you did.
  5. At the end of each week, write a 5-10-sentence journal entry about how the week went, reviewing your successes and failures. Share it with someone (email, etc.).
  6. If you were consistent the previous week, increase your exercise by 2 minutes for the next week, otherwise stay the same or shorten it.

So just make a commitment to yourself and others to stick to small daily exercise for six weeks, and keep a log. Will you be super fit after these 6 weeks? Well, you’ll be fitter than now, and you’ll be much further along the way to a lifetime fitness habit.

You can do it!

Tips for the Challenge

I’m interested in your success, and the sad truth is that most people fail at these kinds of challenges. Not you, though, because you’re going to be smart about this.

Here are some tactics that work for me:

  1. Do less each day than you think you can. Most people tend to be too ambitious, and then burn out. You should leave some in the tank, and set the bar low, at least at first.
  2. Create digital and physical reminders. On your phone and calendar, and a paper note somewhere you won’t miss it. You don’t want to forget!
  3. Make each exercise a joyful meditation. Be mindful, focus on gratitude for even being able to do it. Make each exercise session the reward.
  4. Make it fun. Your exercise can be a sport you love, it can be a walk or run with someone you enjoy spending time with, or you can do a challenge using Fitbit or some other kind of social fitness app.
  5. The weekly review is for adjustments. You’ll find various obstacles as you go, and the review is a way to reflect on what you’ve done right, what has gotten in the way, and what adjustments you need.
  6. Create a recurring calendar reminder to do your weekly review.
  7. If you miss a day, don’t feel bad. It happens. The thing that gets most people is giving up after missing a day or two. Instead, be the kind of person who gets back on track no matter what.

Are you going to do the Get Fit For Summer Challenge? If so, tell your friends about it, ask them to join you, and use #getfitforsummer.

My Get Active & Fit Course

If you’d like extra support for your new fitness habit, join my Sea Change Program … I’ve just started a 6-week video course called Get Active & Fit, where I’ll be doing video lessons and a live video webinar on creating a consistent fitness habit (or taking your current habit to the next level).

You can try the free 7-day trial.

We’ll be doing this challenge together, discussing the fitness habit supporting each other on the Sea Change forum, and doing small daily challenges to help people learn to be fit for life. Join Sea Change here to be a part of this program.


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The Face Everything Technique: Why Avoiding Difficulties Doesn’t Work

The Face Everything Technique: Why Avoiding Difficulties Doesn’t Work

BY LEO BABAUTA

We are, all of us, amazing at avoiding things.

Our minds are less “thinking machines” than they are “avoiding machines.” And the incredible thing is that we aren’t even usually aware that we’re avoiding thinking about something.

I’ll give you a few examples:

  • Right now you’re reading this article but probably avoiding the difficult thing you don’t want to think about.
  • We are constantly checking messages, news, feeds, notifications … to avoid doing something we don’t want to face.
  • When we’re facing difficulties in life, we try to tell ourselves that’s it’s OK because (fill in the blank), or get busy with some activity or numbing agent (like alcohol) so we don’t have to face the difficulties.
  • When a problem comes up, our reaction is to want to go do something else, put it off.
  • We put off paying bills, doing taxes, dealing with long emails, dealing with clutter, because we don’t want to face these difficulties.
  • We put off exercise because it’s uncomfortable.

In fact, there are thousands more examples, every day, that come up and that we don’t even notice, because our minds switch to thinking about something else.

Try this right now: pause for a minute and think about what difficulty you’re avoiding thinking about right now.

You will either notice a difficulty you don’t like, or your mind will quickly turn to doing something else before the minute is up.

What you’ve done is part of what I call the Face Everything Technique … which I’ll explain in a minute, after we talk about why avoiding everything is an ineffective strategy.

Avoidance Doesn’t Work

Our minds want to run from whatever discomfort, pain, difficulty we’re facing … and this is a good strategy for temporarily not having to deal with difficulty and pain. So in the present moment, we might feel some temporary relief.

But what it does is relegate us to a life of running. A life of distraction and never facing what ails us. We keep ourselves busy, but never learn to deal with what’s inside us, what’s in front of us.

This means we are at the mercy of our fears, of our discomforts. We are like little children who don’t want to do any hard work, but want the latest shiny fun thing.

This results in not working on the important work (or at least putting it off until it starts to get painful). The same is true of exercise, healthy eating, finances, clutter, relationships, and more.

In the end, we usually have to deal with these things, but they’ve just gotten worse. It would have been better to face them early on, when they weren’t such a big deal.

The Face Everything Technique

This technique is based on the idea that it’s better to be aware of things, and to deal with them like an adult, instead of running.

And if we do, none of it’s that big of a deal.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Create awareness by asking, “What am I doing right now?”Throughout the day, set reminders or put little notes that remind you to ask, “What am I doing right now?” The answer might be, “Checking Facebook,” or “Switching to a new browser tab,” or “Eating some chips.” Something simple and mundane like that, but just ask yourself what you’re doing, to start to bring awareness.
  2. Next, ask yourself, “What am I avoiding?” When things get difficult or uncomfortable, we automatically switch to something else. We run. We avoid, like crazy. You’re doing it all day long, but not realizing it. Ask what you’re avoiding: some fear, some difficult task, some difficult emotion, some discomfort, or just staying present in the current moment? Name what you’re avoiding.
  3. Now face it. Just stay with this fear, discomfort, difficulty, in the present moment. Not your story about it that you’re telling yourself in your head, but the actual physical feeling in your body in the present moment. How bad is it? You’ll find that it’s No Big Deal. Stay with it for a little longer. And a little longer after that — challenge yourself.
  4. Take appropriate action. Now that you’ve faced it and have seen that it’s not such a big deal, you can act like an adult rather than a little child: you can decide what the best action is right now. If you’re afraid of doing some task, but you’ve faced it and seen that the fear is not such a big deal … you can remind yourself that the task will benefit you and others, and is much more important than your little fear. If you’re avoiding a difficult conversation with someone because you’re angry, you can see that the anger and offense is not such a big deal, and you can talk to the person calmly and appropriately, with empathy and compassion, and figure out a solution.

Of course, not all problems will just evaporate using this method, but I can tell you that you’ll be able to face many more things as you practice this method. You’ll get better at dealing with discomfort, instead of running from it as most people do. You’ll get better at not procrastinating, and doing uncomfortable tasks. You’ll be more present and more willing to stay in the moment rather than needing distractions all the time. Not overnight, but with practice.

You might have the urge to dismiss this article, to avoid practicing this technique. That too is avoidance, and I urge you to face it this moment.


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This Moment is Enough

This Moment is Enough

BY LEO BABAUTA

I was in a plane descending into Portland for a quick stopover, and I gazed upon a brilliant pink sunrise over blue and purple mountains, and my heart ached.

Instinctively, I looked over to Eva to share this breath-taking moment, but she was sleeping. I felt incomplete, not being able to share the moment with her, or with anyone. Its beauty was slipping through my fingers.

This was a teachable moment for me: I somehow felt this moment wasn’t enough, without being able to share it. It took me a second to remind myself: this moment is enough.

It’s enough, without needing to be shared or photographed or improved or commented upon. It’s enough, awe-inspiring just as it is.

I’m not alone in this feeling, that the moment needs to be captured by photo to be complete, or shared somehow on social media. It’s the entire reason for Instagram, for instance.

We feel the moment isn’t enough unless we talk about it, share it, somehow solidify it. The moment is ephemeral, and we want solidity and permanence. This kind of groundlessness can scare us.

This feeling of not-enoughness is fairly pervasive in our lives:

What if we accepted this present moment, and everyone and everything in it, as exactly enough?

What if we needed nothing more?

What if we accepted that this moment will slip away when it’s done, and saw the fleeting time we had with the moment as enough, without needing to share it or capture it?

What if we said yes to things, instead of rejecting them?

What if we accepted the “bad” with the good, the failures with the attempts, the irritating with the beautiful, the fear with the opportunity, as part of a package deal that this moment is offering us?

What if we paused right now, and saw everything in this present moment around us (including ourselves), and just appreciated it for what it is, as perfectly enough?


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Relationship Salve: The Practice of Intentional Dialogues

Relationship Salve: The Practice of Intentional Dialogues

BY LEO BABAUTA

A couple months ago, I started a daily practice with my wife Eva called the Intentional Dialogue process, aimed at helping us become better at talking about difficult issues.

Now, Eva and I have a great marriage, and we love each other deeply. But like any couple, sometimes we feel frustrated or hurt by the other person, or sometimes we don’t feel we’re being heard.

Every person in a long-term relationship knows what I’m talking about. In fact, this same dynamic applies to any long-term friend, any family relationship with a good degree of intimacy. Difficult conversations are touchy.

Things shifted drastically when I learned something simple and yet profound, from talking to renowned relationship/men’s coach John Wineland a couple months ago …

Most couples violate a basic tenet: I’m not going to make you feel wrong.

Think about that for a minute. When we get into an argument, we’re basically making our loved one feel like they’re wrong. We might say, “Sure, but actually …” and then go on to explain how their point of view or actions are all wrong. When we criticize them, we’re saying they’re wrong.

Who likes to feel this way? It can especially hurt when our trusted partner is making us feel wrong. And if you’re like most couples, you might be doing this every day.

So how does the Intentional Dialogue process help with this? It helps you communicate to your partner (and really try to believe yourself) that they are not wrong. That how they feel makes sense.

The Intentional Dialogue Process

I’m not an expert on this process, but here’s how we’ve been practicing it:

  1. **Have one person be the “sender” and the other be the “receiver”. If one of you has a frustration, you ask the other person to have an Intentional Dialogue. By agreement, the other person can ask to do it later when they’re not busy, but they have to pick a time within the next 24 hours. Commit to doing this process when the other person needs you. It’s good to separate the roles like this, because usually when we have relationship talks, it is both people trying to be heard and understood, and neither is trying to do the hearing and understanding.
  2. Prepare for your role. The sender should give some thought to how they might concisely state their frustration in the beginning. The receiver should do their best to show up ready to listen and empathize, and to put aside their own story about whatever the issue is so they can hear the other person’s side. This can be difficult.
  3. The sender shares and the receiver listens. When the dialogue starts, the sender shares what they’re frustrated or hurt about, by saying something like, “When you did this, I felt this way.” And then continues to try to share their experience and perspective. The receiver just listens, trying to really understand their partner with an open heart, without trying to explain themselves. The receiver should try to notice when their own story is getting in the way of listening (for example, “Hey, I was only trying to __!”) and put their story aside for now. Just try to understand.
  4. The receiver mirrors and confirms. When the sender is done talking, the receiver should try to mirror back what the sender said, in the sender’s words. Yes, that can mean just repeating what they said, without putting it into your own words or interpreting it. Try to be true to what they said. It helps them feel heard, and can help them show you where you mis-heard them. If the sender has a lot to say, they might do it in chunks, allowing the receiver to mirror the first part of what they have to say before going on to the next part. When the receiver mirrors the sender’s message back to them, they should end by saying, “Did I get that?” (sender: “yes”) and then “Is there more?” Then the sender can say, “Yes, there’s more …” or “No, that’s all.”
  5. The magic words are: “That makes sense.”When the sender is done talking, and the receiver has mirrored their words and gotten confirmation that they got it right … that’s when the magic happens. That’s when the receiver simply says, “That makes sense.” Those three words are what the sender really wants to hear. Now, the receiverdoesn’t have to agree with the receiver, he or she just has to see that it’s understandable that they feel this way, given their perspective. That’s all. If you’re really trying to understand the other person’s perspective, you can see that they’re not crazy, that how they feel makes sense.
  6. The receiver then does empathy. Next, the receiver will try to give empathy to the sender, after saying, “That makes sense.” For example, “It does makes sense that you’d feel that way … I imagine you felt hurt when I did that, maybe you were hoping I’d be more supportive, and you felt abandoned, rejected by me, frustrated that I wasn’t listening to you. And when I didn’t want to hear your side and just accused you of complaining again, that probably felt like I didn’t want to understand you, and felt like I was judging and criticizing you for feeling the way you do.” This is just a quick example, but the main idea is that the receiver is trying to get into the sender’s shoes, and really show the sender he or she can understand what they’re going through. At the end of this step, the receiver says, “Did I get that right? Is there anything else you wish I had said?” And the sender can then fill in any holes or correct the receiver’s perceptions. That’s it!
  7. You can switch roles if needed. At this point, if the sender feels heard and understood, the receiver might want to share their side of the story. And so he or she can ask to switch roles, and then start the process from the beginning.

This is all better explained by John Wineland and his co-teacher Guru Jagat in this great video. Watch it and you’ll understand the process, I think.

The Benefits of the Process

You might notice that in the above process, there’s no solution seeking, just understanding. So how does this help if there’s no resolution to the conflict?

What Eva and I have found is that this process changes everything. We start to respect the other person’s point of view, we feel understood and not frustrated, and we feel a sense of intimacy and trust with each other.

That’s profound.

It really changes how we feel about each other, how we relate to each other. It means we can work together with trust to find a solution, but sometimes we don’t even need a solution, because all we really wanted was to feel understood.

John shares a few additional benefits (these are his words):

A 40-Day Practice

John recommended a 40-day challenge … commit with your partner to do this Intentional Dialogue process every day for 40 days. It means deliberately practicing every day, even when you’re not having a conflict.

The idea is that once you learn the process and gain trust in each other to work through the process, you’ll be more likely to use it when there is a conflict. And more skilled at doing it by then.

Eva and I did it for several weeks, but then got derailed by a series of visitors that threw off our schedule. We’re getting back on track and are committed to using this process to strengthen our relationship. But even doing it for a few weeks … it changes things a lot.

I hope you’ll give this a shot. It’s my hope that you’ll find the intimacy and trust that Eva and I have found.

 


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