Many of us face the challenge of maintaining balance in our lives. One of those challenges is being able to maintain motivation for your exercise program. With our busy lives, many times it is difficult to ‘find motivation’ for exercise. However, if you approach your exercise in a ‘mindful way’ you can be successful in maintaining your motivation during the holiday season. These strategies can also be applied to those who are starting an exercise program and have found difficulty ‘getting started’.
The first, and possibly most important, step is proper planning. Planning includes appropriate goal setting (see article on goal setting) which will provide appropriate direction to your exercise program. Specificity of the goal is extremely important. Many of us, over the years, have made New Year’s resolutions. Most New Year’s resolutions are not accomplished because they are too vague and generally do not have a specific plan to accomplish the set goal.
After setting a goal, you need to determine how you are going to monitor your progress toward that goal. For some people this may be keeping a written journal, while others may use computer programs. This monitoring will allow you to revisit your progress, but also identify some of the challenges or barriers you have faced.
Understanding those barriers is the third area to consider. Barriers can be external or internal. Examples of external barriers are negative feedback from other people or disagreement with a person who may be setting the goals. In addition, it could include life changes such as switching jobs or moving to a different house. It could also be temporary or permanent changes due to progression of your MS. On the other hand, internal barriers include things like resistance to change in behavior or psychological distress, such as depression or anxiety. Finally, we may ‘create’ barriers by virtue of how we approach activity. We may have a negative attitude toward exercise or be ‘caught in the fast lane’ which can also be barriers towards moving forward to the goal. These barriers require slowing your pace through relaxation activities such as imagery, visualization or meditation. These ‘mindful’ activities allow one to be in the present moment and can reduce the negative attitudes and get out of the ‘fast lane’.
Now that you have set your plan, determined how you would monitor your progress toward that goal and identified the barriers, you are ready to begin. The best way to ‘get motivation’ is to DO SOMETHING. Behavior change provides motivation not the other way around. Rituals can be very powerful so identifying the what, when, where and how of your exercise program can help provide the direction and ritual of your exercise program.
Many people may need some help and guidance in starting and/or maintaining their exercise program. Use your health care team to provide input in ways you can start or continue with your exercise program if you are having difficulty with some of the steps identified above. It may seem like a lengthy process to go through for your exercise program, but going through this process (which actually isn’t that lengthy) will increase your likelihood of success in achieving your goal(s).
The information in this article was adapted from Dr. David Engstrom’s presentations on motivation as well as his website www.mindfulmotivation.com and the PAUSE® system.