30 Day Wellness Challenge Week 2

nutshell-2122627_1920Note: This is post is part of the New York Times Wellness 30 day challenge. Learn more here and if you want to join in- sign up here. Each week I will post about the daily challenges.

The Reward and Mantra Workouts

This week we have two exercise challenges where you learn to use the brain’s reward system to your advantage. These “brain hacks” are smart way to make it easier to establish a new exercise routine. Creating new habits is hard, we need all the help we can get. Along with last week’s motivation recall challenge, the following techniques provide a clear way to support emerging exercise habits before, during and after a work out.

#1 The Reward Workout

On the day of your workout give yourself a treat, like a special bath or piece of chocolate, but make it something you don’t do on other days. This links a reward to the newly forming habit you are trying to cement (in this case exercise), engaging the support of the brain’s neurological reward system. Eventually, you can let go of the treat as exercise becomes the reward, your mind learns to appreciate the calm post-workout state and improved fitness.

#2 The Mantra Workout

During the workout- use a mantra to stave off fatigue. Fatigue begins in the mind and research shows that you can decrease the perception of difficulty by focusing the mind on a repeated phrase or even just your breath. Make the mantra something positive and encouraging like “keep going” or “I’m strong”. To try the breath focus, I find that keying in on the out breath keeps me going and actually relaxes some unnecessary tension making exercise more enjoyable. While working out feel the sensations of breathing out, notice the chest moving up and down, the feeling of air leaving the body.

Happy moving!

Jason

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