That’s the idea, right? Many people exercise for the endorphins (feel good hormones). It’s not always enough to just feel “good”. Sometimes “good” is too vague to motivate you for next time. Tapping into the deeper emotions associated with your desire to stay fit can help you find the commitment you’re craving.
Imagine and describe how you want to feel as a result of exercise. Close your eyes and envision the way your body, mind and spirit feel from exercise experiences you enjoy. Write down ideas that come to mind, nothing you think is right or wrong. Be open to what pops into your mind.
How do you want to feel?
Do you want to feel energized? Do you want to feel calm (less stressed)? Perhaps you want to feel more toned. Everyone’s reason for exercise is different and the more you tap into your own desires about exercise the better choices you can make. Never mind how you should feel or are supposed to feel.
Once you have the feelings written down, pair them with activities that make those feelings happen for you.
Calm/mindful – yoga, pilates, swimming, walking in nature
Energized – kick-boxing, dance
Confident – boxing, weight training
There is no right or wrong way to pair activities with feelings. One person might feel more calm and mindful from yoga or walking while another might feel that way after boxing. Keep it personal and be ok with who you are.
Why it works
Happiness, surprise, fear, anger and disgust are all familiar human emotions. Happiness can further be described as calm or excited, yet the two are expressed differently. Some people like feeling excited as a happy, positive emotion while others prefer calm serenity. Knowing what emotions you prefer can help you stay committed to exercise and health programs.
Attending a exciting cycling class with blasting music to elevate your emotions may not be as enjoyable to you as a calm, tranquil yoga class or vice-a-versa. You won’t adhere (stay committed) as easily to exercise programs that aren’t tied to your emotions.
On the contrary, if you’re feeling stressed or overly fatigued from an exercise experience it’ll prevent you from wanting to repeat that behavior. Yep, something as positive as fitness can cause you to be frustrated, disgusted or angry. Recognizing the emotions that come from various health experiences helps point you in the right direction.
What direction are you going?
A circumflex model illustrates and organize this concept clearly. There are four main directions to go, just like on a map. North, south, east and west. There are also combinations: northwest or southeast for example. See if you can pinpoint various health activities you participate in and how they make you feel. Even if they’re negative! Healthy cooking might make one person stressed and someone else happy.
See the diagram.
Notice that “excited” is a high arousal (intensity) pleasant feeling, while “calm” is a low arousal (intensity) pleasant feeling. On the other side of the circle there are high arousal (intensity) negative and low arousal (intensity) negative emotions.
Use this diagram to help you further pinpoint the feelings you want to have from exercise and those that you’re already experiencing. Also use it to recognize any negative feelings that arise, contemplate them and make changes accordingly.