January 23rd 2016
Weekly News: Kati’s Fit Kit – Let go of negative self-talk
“I’ll never be able to do this.” “I look terrible.” “I’m so weak.” “I have failed before, so why should this time be different.”
Do any of these phrases sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. We have all, at one point or another experienced moments of self-doubt, but if we allow ourselves to be bombarded with negative thoughts, they can become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Our thoughts really do have a big impact on our lives – they affect our emotions, our beliefs about ourselves, the decisions we make, and ultimately what we get out of life. This time of year many of us are working with New Year’s intentions and goals, and it’s important to make sure we take some time to notice our mindset, and how our thoughts can shape our success. Just like the old saying goes, “whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right!”
Negative self-talk makes any change you are undertaking more difficult, and sets you up for failure in reaching the goals you have set. When it comes to fitness goals, here are a few negative thoughts and mindsets I know I have experienced, and they may ring a bell for you too:
1. Dwelling on the past. “If only I had started focusing on exercise sooner, maybe now I would already own the double bodyweight deadlift I am working towards…” “Maybe I wouldn’t be overweight now if I hadn’t let my nutrition slide for the past couple of years…” “If I had started training with better technique sooner, I wouldn’t have these injuries to work around…”
Fact: You can’t change the past. You can’t control what’s happened before, but you can control how you react right now. Learn from your past, but don’t let it take over your present. Wipe the slate clean and focus only on today. Letting go of what you can’t change will allow you time and energy for what you can.
2. Believing you have to be a certain “ideal” in order to be happy. “As soon as I lose 20 pounds, I’ll be worthy of love…” “I can’t go to the beach until I have a 6 pack…” “If I can’t lift the way I did in my 20s, I may as well not train at all…”
Fact: You are not now, and never will be perfect. No one is. Although you may pursue different paths to positive change, you will never reach a point where you are “finished.” In fact, you are an ever changing being. Sometimes you will be lighter or heavier, experience strength peaks and valleys, have times when you are recovering from illness / injury and times when you feel like you can conquer the world. Learn to love and accept yourself regardless of the ever changing conditions of life, and enjoy the journey.
3. Comparing yourself to others. “I want to look just like this model in this magazine…” ” I thought I was strong until I saw a video on Facebook of a guy benching 600 pounds…” “I’m so far behind that no matter how hard I try I will never catch up with my friend who has been in great shape for years…”
Fact: You will never have what someone else has. Even if you wear the same size, your body won’t look exactly the same as someone else’s. Even if you can accomplish the same feats of strength as your buddy in the gym, your experience of getting there will be different. It’s great to take inspiration from other people – it can be a big motivator. But if you fall into the trap of basing your own success on how you stack up with others, you are likely to frequently be disappointed. You also set yourself up as a victim because comparing yourself to others places your focus on “them” rather than you and your progress. Embrace your own uniqueness and your journey.
The examples I’m using are all fitness related, but these things apply to pretty much all life situations. So what can you do to practice letting go of negative self-talk? I will share with you a meditation practice that works well for me, based on my training in Yoga Nidra:
Lay on your back in a comfortable resting position, with your head supported by a pillow. Try to find a quiet time when you can be free of distractions. Take 5 minutes or so just settling in and letting your breathing become deep and relaxed.
Then call to your attention whatever thought, emotion or belief you find has been coming up for you. Rather than trying to “fix” it or send it away, allow yourself to welcome it. Spend a few minutes with the thought or belief, just taking note of how you feel and what physically happens to your body when you take this belief to be true. This may be challenging to do, but as you are able to welcome in these thoughts and beliefs they will move through the stages of birth, growth, fading, and ultimately dissolving away.
Next call to your attention the opposite of whatever thought or belief you were first working with. For example, if you were experiencing anger, frustration or fear of failure, allow yourself to experience joy, calm and confidence. Spend a few minutes noting how you feel and what you experience physically in your body.
Then see if you can allow for both opposite ideas to exist in your body at once. And just try to stay with that feeling for a few minutes, with the understanding that just as your physical body is in a constant state of change, ideas, thoughts and emotions will also come and go. You have a body, but you are not just this body. You have thoughts, and emotions, but they are not who you are. You are what is unchanging, underneath all the changing thoughts, emotions and feelings that will come and go.
Come back slowly by just allowing yourself a few minutes to breathe and slowly stretch the body. A meditation practice like this will take some time for you to develop, so give yourself a few weeks of consistent practice to try it out. If you give it a try, we would love to hear how it goes!
Enjoy the journey! Kati