Many times our biggest hurdles are in our heads. Yes, that new exercise may be hard, and a new environment or task intimidating, but the trick is to just get moving—and manage your expectations along the way.
Commitment and perseverance are admirable traits that drive success in and outside the gym. And you can get better at them! We’re all about upping our game slowly but surely, and that includes exercising our mental muscles. Learn how to motivate yourself to get started on something new, and talk yourself through challenges across your entire life, to build your mental toughness! The rewards will be great and well worth the effort.
Getting Over That First Hump
Generally, the hardest part of trying a new healthy routine (or any unfamiliar task) is getting started. We are creatures of habit and change for most of us is scary. But it doesn’t have to be. Don’t let change psych you out—or more importantly, prevent you from living your best life.
Consider these tips for getting started that are sure to build your mental toughness:
- Identify what motivates you. Success means putting both your head and your heart into it. Does new workout gear motivate you to get to the gym more often? If so, set a budget and reward yourself for meeting your weekly goal. Does eating a clean and healthy diet leave you feeling light and happy? Create a meal plan that includes lots of wholesome ingredients.
- Set SMART goals—that’s specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Challenge yourself to identify all these parameters and learn more about SMART goals.
- Identify potential obstacles and come up with a plan for how to overcome them if they arise. That includes mentally preparing yourself that things may not go exactly as expected, and that’s okay.
- Tell a friend your goal and ask them to hold you accountable. Or better yet, find someone with a similar goal or challenge to work toward it with you.
If you start smart, you’re even more likely to sustain your new routine or task, and enjoy it more!
How to Coach Yourself Through Mental Struggles
While seeking professional services is sometimes necessary, there are also simple ways you can coach yourself through the mental challenges that hit us all throughout life.
First, identify your values. What is most important to you in life? Family? Financial stability? Health? How do each of these areas influence you being your most authentic self? If a problem arises that does not fit within your value system, maybe it’s not worth the mental stress. Being able to identify when and where to invest your time and energy can help you feel more grounded and provide mental clarity.
Practice reframing, or looking at a problem through a different lens when you’re feeling stuck. The whole goal of reframing is to not only shed a positive light on the situation, but to move from inaction to action. Part of reframing may be learning how to take risks. If you’re not someone who normally takes risks, remember this may feel uncomfortable. Looking at your problem from a different perspective may reveal some of the benefits a risk-taker may have in the same situation. Getting creative when it comes to solving our problems not only builds mental toughness, but can be quite empowering.
Make sure to stop and celebrate. Often times we are so focused on the end game that we forget to stop for a moment and reflect on what we’ve accomplished thus far. Regular check-ins could look something like every 30, 60, and 90 days. What small wins can be celebrated? What work is there still to be done? Try to frame these answers with a positive lens to motivate you to further work toward your SMART goal(s).
A Note on Nutrition
Mental toughness isn’t only about overcoming challenges and crushing goals. The actual health of your brain is key. So fuel it with nourishing foods. You need your brain to be functioning properly to be at the top of your game! Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids and micronutrients like zinc, folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin C contribute to brain health. Incorporate foods like fresh fish, nuts, leafy greens, avocados, and colorful fruits into your diet to support your efforts.