How Fitness Can Help With Mindfulness And Mental ClarityAdam Stansbury
There are so many distractions going on around us from digital devices, with all forms of media providing a constant flow of information, from news reports, to advertisements, to social media posts, what to eat, what not to eat, what to wear, what not to wear, making money, spending money, the stress of not having money, workloads, relationship problems, health concerns, global uncertainty etc. It’s no wonder that with so many thoughts clogging up our conscious minds, many of us become disconnected with our inner selves and the beauty of the real world going on around us, becoming consumed with the relentless information storm that is the modern world, which can lead to excessive stress and manifestation into illness within the body.
So how do we function efficiently in this ever changing world?
The modern world is not going to change anytime soon, so instead of fighting against the flow we need to adopt new ways in which we can reduce the negative effect that it may have on us, until it does change.
Learning to be more conscious and mindful, as we go about our daily tasks and ensuring that we don’t become lost in our thoughts and worries, is one of the best ways we can protect ourselves.
‘From small hinges you can swing big doors’
You don’t have to sit down in a lotus position and wear ‘hippy’ yoga pants to meditate, become more mindful and to clear your mind, although I can highly recommend you try.
The outcome here is to help clear your head of unnecessary thinking by your conscious mind and so performing any activity that engages you fully and forces you to become more present can achieve this, especially through fitness.
Fitness for the Mind
In 2005 I suffered from a digestive illness that caused me much pain on a daily basis for several months which unfortunately culminated in serious surgery in 2006, the primary cause of which was anxiety and worry.
I remember some days when the pain was so consuming in my abdomen, it was all I could think of and I entered into a vicious circle of more thinking, more anxiety and more pain. During this time though I discovered that the greatest pain relief I could give myself was to go to the gym and workout.
This time in the gym lifting weights, counting reps, monitoring tempo, concentrating on my muscles or lifting a heavy weight forced my mind to become present and focus on the activity in hand, it allowed me pure peace of mind and funnily enough complete pain relief for that hour and a half.
Now there’s obviously a mixture of processes at play during exercise as we have increased adrenal hormones that can also play a big part in pain relief but fitness also forces you into a complete period of presence.
It’s important though to choose your activity wisely to help the mind switch off, in order for this to happen you need to be pushing the body to a point that forces the conscious mind to focus on the activity and not idle thoughts.
Sitting on a stationary bike or a machine in the gym and just staring at a wall whilst you go through the motions will not do you any good and you’ll end up dragging onto the gym floor the thoughts you were trying to stop.
I find the best way that fitness can help with mindfulness is through circuit style training, multiple exercises performed with a medium to fast tempo, one after the other that engage the body through different planes of movement, this is the best way to force your mind into the present moment and back from the past or future.
This is not to say that other forms of activity won’t have the same effect, we are all different and you need to find what works best for you.
Next time you need to use fitness to calm your mind try getting involved in a circuit class, or perform your own workouts using a variety of functional tools such as the TRX, Kettlebells, Dumbbells, Medicine balls and bodyweight movements.
Moving more Mindfully
Movement and more specifically being aware of your body, how it feels, how it moves and becoming aware of the muscles and internal processes that you’re in control of to allow your body to get into positions and perform certain tasks.
Much has been written about the ‘mind muscle connection’ and how the thoughts from your mind transfer down your central nervous system to engaged muscle fibres stimulating them into new growth in the case of building muscle.
How about Ballet, Dancing, Martial Arts, Yoga and Pilates, where intricate sequences require controlled and fluid movement, interlinking one to the next, utilising all the complexity of the bodies bio mechanics.
During endurance or high intensity activity you may consider the rate in which you’re breathing and that your heart is beating, feeling the power and control you have of your limbs to move in this or that direction.
Becoming more mindful and aware of your bodily movements will help to create that space between thoughts and allow you more mental clarity.
Mindfulness Throughout the Day
There are many areas other than fitness that will also help bring more mental clarity and mindfulness to your daily life, allowing uncluttered thinking and a greater level of creativity.
Try meditating in the mornings or evenings, maybe turn the phone and TV off and enjoy the process of preparing and eating your food, the flavours, where it came from etc., you could try and be more present when interacting with other people, listen to what they are saying and feeling, rather than planning what you’re about to say next. At work you can make even the most boring tasks more enjoyable by being more mindful and present rather than wishing the day away.
Fitness and exercise will have the best ‘bang for your buck’ to begin with, as you will calm the mind and move the body at the same time, killing two birds with one stone.
De-Stress, Relax and enjoy one of our Stress Management Retreats. Speak to our wellness consultants on 020 7843 3597 to begin your journey to better health.