One of the most common mistakes I see people make is jumping into a new diet or exercise program without a plan in place. Clients also often describe waking up in the morning having a deep and sincere intention to exercise and eat healthy all day, only to find themselves unconsciously noshing on a doughnut an hour later, and then throwing in the towel on their exercise plans.
How do you get to your desired destination without getting sidetracked? It starts with knowing your starting point. Simply put, you must know point A before you can get to point B. When you get diverted from your goals, it’s a sign that you are unclear about where you are standing in your life path.
The following exercises will help you gain clarity and perspective, and will allow you to break destructive patterns, so you can move forward with open and loving eyes. You’ll be able to find answers to small questions, like “Am I hungry?” as well as big ones, like “Am I happy with my body and myself?” or “Does my marriage work?” And anything in between.
Here are two variations on “Look in the Mirror” exercises.
LOOK IN THE “REFLECTIVE” MIRROR
Stand in front of a full-length mirror (you can keep your clothes on). Be fully present in your mental and physical self. Imagine that you are getting ready to make your New Year’s resolution (yes, even if it is the middle of the summer). Begin by focusing on your breath. Feel each inhale and exhale. Peacefully take in your reflection. Look into your eyes and examine your body. If you find your gaze wandering, take a few breaths and bring your gaze back to your image. Imagine what you look like to the outside world, to your friends, family, and loved ones—even your dog or cat. Look at your skin, your face, and the rest of your body. What messages have you heard about your appearance? What have you always wanted to change? After a few breaths, while looking into your eyes, ask yourself, “What do I want for myself? What do I want in my life? How would I like to change?” Continue focusing on your breath while you wait for insight.
If your response is “I want to lose weight,” meditate on that—sit with the thought and take it further. Why do you want to lose weight? What are you willing to do to lose weight? How will it change your relationships with the people in your life? How will it change who you are? Feel the feelings that come up without resistance. Now grab a pen and paper, and without analyzing your thoughts, write what came to your mind while you were looking in the mirror. Answer the following questions:
- What do you want to change?
- What are you willing to do to achieve it?
- What else came up during the exercise?
- Are you 100 percent ready to commit to yourself?
LOOK IN YOUR MIND MIRROR
This exercise is an on-the-spot check that you can do any time you are unsure about a decision you are facing—if you aren’t sure what to eat, how you feel, what you need to do next in your day, and so on. Wherever you are, pause and take a moment to close your eyes and visualize yourself in your mind’s eye. Let your thoughts pass by as clouds in the sky. Say or think, “I love my body, and my life is always changing.” Repeat this several times. Then ask yourself, “What do I see? What do I want? How am I feeling?” The answers will come if you give yourself quiet, calm, and loving respect.
FOLLOW THE PATH YOU SET
Knowing what path you are on will help you remove distractions and self-defeating habits from your life. Establishing extremely detailed daily goals and a plan of action that resonates with the unique vision you have for yourself can result in twice as much weight loss compared to those who don’t have any planning in place, according to an English study. Researchers from the University of Sussex and Warsaw University had women 18 to 76 write out detailed plans for handling temptation triggers, such as drinking herbal tea instead of giving in to nighttime sweet cravings, or keeping healthy snacks in their purses to avoid the vending machine or fast food joints when they got rushed at work. After eight weeks, the planners had lost more than nine pounds compared to just over four pounds in the no-planning group. In another study, Israeli researchers found that of 632 women and men, ages 35 to 57, those who had a plan of action for dealing with temptations and challenges lost 40% more weight than those who didn’t. The researchers referred to this as having an “implementation intention,” or an “if/then” strategy.
I’ll write about techniques for setting effective goals in in future blog posts.
In the meantime…if one of your goals is to be free from pain so you can start a workout routine, here are some great exercises to get you there. They help if you have neck pain, low-back pain, plantar fasciitis, shoulder pain, carpal tunnel syndrome or shin splints.
Check out Joel Harper’s website, or click here to buy his book, Mind Your Body: 4 Weeks to a Leaner, Healthier Life.