Do you often feel your mind wandering away from you? Jumping from one thought to the next, mulling over things you need to do or things you should’ve said? With everything a blur, it can be hard to make any decisions at all. Mindfulness is an extremely effective way to combat decision paralysis, and when we combine this with our conduct towards physical exercise, we can maximise our progress and develop a greater appreciation for workouts and the results.
If you are new to the concept of mindfulness or a little unsure where to start, Bamae has a handy guide of the key ideas here. The main pillars of mindfulness are handy even outside the sphere of exercise, as they encourage us to be better as a whole. It’s definitely worth familiarising yourself with the fundamentals of mindfulness, so you can work them into your routines and potentially your everyday too
Research suggests that applying mindfulness to your workouts has a myriad of benefits, including an increase in efficiency and levels of movement- you work harder and see better results.
Mindfulness also links extremely well with certain physical exercises, because its core principles encourage you to focus on maintaining yourself in the present. Activities such as yoga and Pilates encourage you to focus on your breathing and taken the world around you with intent, so the two go together very nicely. Sometimes you can experience the benefits of mindfulness by letting your mind wander away from the usual distractions while your body continues to work through your routines. For some people, taking your mind off the exercise means you are less likely to feel the exertion that comes with it, so you can continue your workouts for longer.
There has also been a suggested link between mindfulness and cardiovascular health- possibly because stress and lack of physical activity can contribute to cardiovascular issues. If mindfulness can increase physical output in addition to the calming effects it has on our mental health, then the benefits are twofold. By practicing mindfulness in your everyday life, you can cover two of the biggest contributors to cardiovascular illness in one neat action.
Mindfulness has also proven to help with physical recovery and chronic pain, as well as building up our immune system- which helps us resist future illness. Stress can also lower our immune system, so mindfulness can keep us calm and healthy to work out another day. This is presumably because of the way it makes us feel more at home in our own skin, and have a greater feeling of influence in our lives.
Mental health benefits
Research has found that incorporating mindfulness into your routines can help acheive a good night's sleep and lessen the symptoms of anxiety and depression. There has also been an observed increase in self compassion- treating yourself with greater understanding and kindness, especially in moments of difficulty. This is extremely valuable in our daily life because many of us tend to be overly critical of ourselves- sometimes without even realising it. If we treat ourselves kindly in those moments that we feel like we deserve it the least, we can do ourselves the world of good. You are less likely to feel insecure, or talk yourself out of working hard because it feels like too much. By considering your options in a realistic and grounded way, you are far more likely to stick to your plans.
Keeping up commitments
If you feel more positive about your physical health, you are more likely to keep up any positive habits associated with it and will remain far more active. Continuing to be mindful in your everyday life can encourage you to make healthier decisions in the long run, so you are more likely to commit to your exercise routines and vice versa. We can struggle to keep up with our routines no matter how hard we try- we might get bored or find more immediately satisfactory ways of spending our time. One of the ways that mindfulness can help is in it’s ability to strengthen our resolve, helping us face difficult situations head-on. Increasing our resolve can keep us going for longer, and commit harder in those moments when we would rather be doing anything else.
Peace of mind
The little details we often miss because we are existing passively are brought to the forefront of our minds. Being aware of the here and now means being aware of our breathing and our movement, as well as form and speed too. When we exercise we often see it as moving from one goalpost to the next- what progress we have made and how long we have been going for. These can be fantastic motivators, don’t get me wrong, but next time you’re working out, try to focus instead on being in the moment- your surroundings, what you can see and hear.
The core principles tend to overlap when it comes to committing to an exercise routine and employing mindfulness principles, even going for a walk can provide you with some peace of mind and let you see things from a new perspective- which can sometimes be exactly what we need. We need to learn to take our time and value the little things we do, because there is so much to appreciate that we often miss in the daily rush. We can improve our bodies and our minds in brand new ways if we can only learn how.