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Exercise Your Will Power: Reframe!

Many fitness trainers shy away from discussions on will power. It's a sensitive topic because clients can often feel defeated when their "will" is less powerful than they thought. BUT just as exercise can strengthen our muscles, cognitive reframing can strengthen our self-control. Whether you are trying to lose weight, get active, or simply be the healthiest YOU possible, try to shift perspective to increase your will power. It’s a great way to reshape the way you think, behave, and ultimately feel! It works.

What is reframing?
Psychologists often use reframing to generate a change in thought by looking at any given circumstance from a more positive (and equally realistic) angle. Is the glass half empty or half full? Both statements are true, so why not opt for the positive choice?

An easy way to apply this to will power is to start replacing the word "try" with the word "will." For instance, instead of saying "I can try to make it to the gym tomorrow." Tell yourself "I WILL make it to the gym tomorrow." You have then made a concrete statement that you can stick to. When we use the word "try" we are often giving ourselves an out, so we don't need to accept responsibility for our actions. By using the word "will" we make a concrete statement and feel powerful when we accomplish the task.

You can also use reframing to improve self-esteem which can, in turn, improve your will power. Sometimes we don’t realize that it’s our negative self image that is standing in the way of our goals. Instead of thinking, “I feel so fat today...” try “I am craving a work out today!” Try to notice the negative self-talk and reframe it into something positive.

At first it is a challenge to shift perspectives, but one thought at a time we can build an optimistic approach. Take breaks when you need to, and don't beat yourself up if your will power doesn't change over night. In time it will become easier to reframe any situation. If you need extra help reaching your weight loss or fitness goals, ask for it. See a therapist, hire a personal trainer, or both!

Be full of thanks...not just turkey

I started to write a blog for this week and kept failing…it was another “don’t over stuff yourself this Thanksgiving” kind of post.  For some reason the words were not flowing.  Inspiration did not strike.  Another topic started to bubble up inside me, one that seemed more important than weight control issues and nutrition.  Gratitude (defined as an appreciative awareness and thankfulness) kept coming to my mind.  I started to think about all the wonderful things in my life.  I am so blessed to have supportive friends, a rewarding career, food to nourish me, clothes to keep me warm, a beautiful apartment to come home to, family to call on, and a loving partner to share it all with.  An overwhelming sense of gratitude filled me and I felt deeply content.  It changed my mood for the entire day….but it is not always easy to tap into that feeling of gratitude.  It can be challenging to recognize the “good.”  We often concentrate on what we don’t want in our lives, instead of bringing the awareness to what we do want and have. We often focus on our dislikes and fears, instead of our delights and dreams. What happens when we replace the negative thoughts with positive ones?   Here are some ways you can tap into the gratitude high…

Dedicate your yoga practice
Because yoga and gratitude are both forms of awareness (one an appreciative awareness, the other mind body awareness), they seem to compliment each other well.  Try dedicating your yoga practice to someone or something you are grateful for.  It could be a friend, loved one, the earth, your health, or maybe just life in general.  Decide what you are dedicating your practice to before you begin.  Hold the image or that person or thing in your mind.  As you move and breathe your way through the asanas try to keep your focus on that image.  Bringing such an intense awareness to this object or person can enrich your experience on the mat and cultivate a deeper mind body connection.  If you don’t practice yoga try dedicating any daily task to your object of gratitude.  You can dedicate a workout, run, or a meal and still feel a greater sense of fulfillment after completing the task.

Meditate using the Pushan Mudra
The term mudra often refers to a symbolic hand gesture that evokes a certain state of consciousness.  There are mudras to aid in all kinds of physical and mental states and aliments.  The Pushan Mudra refers to the Hindu Sun God or the god of nourishment.  The mudra is done by placing the index finger, middle finger and thumb of the right hand together, and placing the middle finger, ring finger, and thumb of the left hand together.  (See illustrations)  Sit in a comfortable position with the hands resting on the thighs palms facing up.  Meditate on all the ways you are nourished and provided for, inside and out.  Try to do this for 15 minutes or for 5 minutes 3 times in a day.  Maybe even use the affirmation “I thankfully accept everything that is good for me, let it have its effect on me, and release everything that is spent.”

Make a gratitude list
Write out a list of things you are grateful for. Try to write down everything, big and small. Include things that have shaped the course of your life (for me-parents, schooling, and my partner David). Add small things that you often overlook (for me-coffee, warm baths, and the smell of chimney smoke in the winter).  By focusing your mind on the positive things in your life you will be more likely to maintain a positive outlook and less likely to focus on the negatives.  Many believe that when you express gratitude for something you will get even more of that thing, so write your list everyday even if you are repeating yourself.  You will not only improve your mood, but you may attract more things to be grateful for.

Express your gratitude to others
There are people in our lives that contribute to our well being every day.  Take a moment to tell these people that they are appreciated.  It can be a phone call, email, a card in the mail, or maybe it’s just a simple “thanks” to the guy that made your latte. You will bring a bit of joy into their day, and in turn it will bring a bit of joy into yours.

Enjoy your holiday, give thanks for all of life’s blessings, and spread the joy!

…and practice portion control. ;) 

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