If you’re constantly fighting with yourself to get to the gym, a few mental tactics and mind motivation hacks can help.
Mental tactics can make a difference between staying in bed and making Pump class. For example, prospection – imagining how you’ll feel when what is now the future becomes the past – is just one hack. Along with these, strategic conversations with yourself and distraction can also work.
Take your mind elsewhere
If workouts feel like torture, no amount of refraining is going to work as you’re creating fresh evidence for the argument that exercise sucks. Try listening to music. Research shows that listening to music during a workout can extend the duration before you get tired, you’re effectively buying extra time and assisting your mission to re-imagine exercise as somewhere between neutral and enjoyable.
The diversion lowers perception of effort while endorphins released in response to hearing music we like masks fatigue according to psychologist Dane Barclay from Victoria’s Performance and Sports Psychology Clinic. “When we recognise that we are not enjoying something, our mind sends a spike of stress hormone cortisol to engage us in a behaviour that removes distress,” he says. Yet playlist selection is key as music that doesn’t match the workout tempo (think beats per minute) can backfire, piquing the body’s pain response.
Think of the outcome
Before you reach over for one too many doughnuts, a wave of guilt suddenly washes over you as you think of the outcomes of eating that extra doughnut. This here, is called prospection. It’s the ability to anticipate future mental processes, motivational and emotional states according to a paper published in the Journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.
Staying home and telling the girls you have a migraine, for instance, is likely to leave you feeling lousier than you possibly could from any half-hour workout. Conversely, you probably know well that there’s nothing more empowering than conquering a challenge, so you can be pretty sure that even if the workout does suck (and it’s unlikely), the feeling afterwards will be worth it.
Self-talk is real talk
Despite the appeal of memes and affirmations, statements of effervescent positivity can work against achieving goals. The problem, experts say, is that layering a conscious thought over contrary unconscious core beliefs can lead to counterproductive inner conflict (think analysis paralysis) and self-flagellation when results fail to materialise.
A study published in journal Psychological Science suggests that rather than steamrolling doubts and telling yourself you’re sure you’ll run faster today than ever, also known as ‘declarative self-talk’, acknowledge your fear that you’ll barely make the 1km mark and come up with a question that challenges you to refute your contention (known as ‘interrogative self-talk). ‘Will I run my fastest time?’ ‘Last summer I struggled in the heat, but training in the heat will help me to run better times in hot conditions.’
The trick is to acknowledge doubts and incorporate them into your answer; while ‘hell, yes’ might get you out the door, if it’s unrealistic, you’re destined to fail and failure will only disempower you by solidifying doubt.
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