FINDING THE JOY IN EXERCISE
Dr. Greg Wells
I’ve talked a lot recently about the importance of exercise for controlling focus and attention, which is one of the main benefits on top of the major impacts exercise has on physical health.
But exercise is also essential for establishing and sustaining a joyful and positive mood, which is a funny effect because the secret to establishing a consistent habit of exercise is actually finding the joy in movement.
Whenever someone asks me how to breakthrough and establish good movement habits, my first tip is often the same: find the joy and challenge yourself.
Here’s what I mean.
In my family, my wife Judith and I do a lot of rock climbing, mountain biking, surfing and skiing with our kids. They are all activities that stimulate the mind-body connection and are just plain fun. They are also activities with an element of challenge that brings fear and failure into the equation.
Activities that hand out eighth-place trophies for children are the bane of my existence. I think that’s one of the reasons why we have an anxiety epidemic. Kids aren’t allowed to experience simple failures anymore. It’s why I think challenge-based activities are critical not just for brain and body health but also for building resilience.
The importance of the joy of exercise is easy to illustrate. I often show audiences images of my daughter Ingrid at a climbing gym, racing to the top of a wall and repelling back down. When she reaches the bottom, she has the most extraordinary look on her face: happy, confident, proud, energized. I ask audiences to contrast that with the typical look of someone at the gym on an elliptical trainer: pain, suffering, sacrifice, constipation, grind – all bad.
You should pursue whatever activity you are passionate about. When you do, you won’t just improve your mood during and after a session, you will activate a huge range of knock-on effects. The main one is that you will trigger the Focused Execution Pathway. That’s the system that engages your brain in Radical Attention by triggering beta waves. That’s the mode you need for concentration, hustle, focus, and domination of your craft. By using movement, you can get your body and mind engaged so you can execute at the highest possible level.
Done properly, exercise feels good. It makes your brain work better. It improves your attention. It amplifies your performance. It gives you confidence. It makes you happier.
Find activities that appeal to you and give you a challenge and go for it. The benefits will be immediate and long lasting. And if you are struggling to get going in the first place, try this simple tip: exercise for five minutes. Put on your workout gear and running shoes and get out there. When the five minutes is up, if you still don’t want to do it, you can stop. But you’ve got to start. Five minutes. Do it consistently, and eventually it won’t be a battle to get started.