Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It's easier

Why don't we do things that leave us feeling do good?

Today I walked out of the gym after a tough leg session feeling on top of the world. But I had not been for 5 days. Why? The usual reasons- too tired, too moody, too busy, too hot, too late, what's the
point etc. Yes, I'd been for walks but I had not kept up with my weights (resistance training) program. I know all these excuses are just that, excuses, but I fell into that trap that many if us get caught in, when we make unhealthy choices because its easier, despite us knowing better, despite it not being easier in the long run.

My exercise example is the same as other different choices that people make everyday.
- continuing to smoke despite knowing its bad for your health
- eating fast food because you did not prepare any thing else
- not exercising because you hate the gym and refuse to wear lycra
- putting off your health check that is overdue.

One of my hobbies unrelated to health is painting. It is something that I have always enjoyed but over the last year or so I have struggled to get started and have doubted my capabilities and creativity. Sitting on the couch one day, despairing at my situation, I looked at my bookshelf and saw the book The Artists Way by Julie Cameron. Its been sitting in my bookshelf for maybe 15 years. when I picked it up, I knew that it was what I needed. I flicked through the pages and made the decision to start straight away- a simple 12 week program that involves writing 3 pages in a journal every morning, and doing some simple tasks each week that don't take a lot of time.

I started writing. Initially it was hard to remember, and hard to make myself do it. Like any new habit, it takes time to get into the swing of it. Thoughts such as "this seems stupid" and "what's the point"  filled me with doubt. How could I become more creative by writing seemingly meaningless lines every morning?

Then a strange thing happened. My motivation to be creative increased. I started to
realise what I wanted to achieve, both creatively and career-wise. Things that I had once loved doing but had given up were now on my to-do list again. It began to be easier to write than not to write.

That was my aha moment! It's easier to do what you know you should do than to avoid
doing it.

If you avoid something, chances are you spend more time thinking about it
than you would have spent just doing it! The guilt experienced when you put something off. The mind-games you play with yourself to justify not doing it. The silly excuses you use to
justify your decision not to do it. The things you say you'll do instead to make up for
not doing what you should have. It's exhausting!

Same with exercise for me (and probably you too!). I have a certain time of day that I go to the
gym. If I don't go then, the mind games start.

- "If I go later, I can have a nap now, I'm so tired because I did not sleep well last night, because I was hyped up after an evening gym session"
- "If I go home now, I can watch the daytime soaps, then I can go to the gym when the
kids get home from school (if I don't need to help with homework)".

It's never-ending negotiations. These thoughts and the feelings of guilt, regret and
shame last much longer than the gym session would have!

Looking at my table below, which would you rather feel?

Going to the gym
Not going to the gym
Endorphin rush afterwards
Feel proud about effort
Keep motivated
No mind games and negotiations
Increased chance of eating healthy food after
Sleep better
Feel guilty
Lose motivation
Start mind-games and negotiating to justify excuses
Increased chance of making unhealthy food choices
Feel under-active and lethargic

Its a simple choice. The decision to go to the gym is so much easier. Same with making healthy food choices or making time to get that health check you've been putting off. Sometimes just getting out there and facing what you are avoiding saves a whole lot of pain later on.

It's easier to do what you know you should do than to avoid
doing it.

Health and happiness xx

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