The problem with a dormant state is it doesn’t take too long before I start feeling depressed. Dark thoughts, dark mood, and little motivation. There is something about movement, for me, that keeps that from happening. There is a lot of science to back that up, but I won’t go into that here. If you experience this yourself, you don’t need science to explain it. You know it is harder to stay motivated and mentally uplifted when you are stuck inside, not moving.
I can hear the sleet outside as I type this.
I get a lot of questions about how to get and stay motivated to do cardiovascular exercise regularly, especially in the winter. There are a lot of tips and strategies that can help. Schedule it, do it with a friend, find a class, join a group, get it done early, stuff like that. All helpful strategies unless you are feeling depressed and unmotivated. From that pit, these tips sound ridiculous.
I understand that.
Here’s what I learned after being in that dark pit for way too long. I have to work out. It keeps me alive. It is life-saving medication for me and my mind. Without it, I lose focus. Without it, I don’t feel good about myself. Without it, I feel like I am stuck in a pit of all my emotions, that my brain doesn’t know how to process.
But once I walk, or run, or get my heart rate up in some other way, things change. It is like when you have the blinds closed in a room, then you crack them just a bit to let a little light in. A little light comes in. I can see things more clearly. I can process what I am feeling.
From that place, I can take small steps to create daily practices that help me get and stay healthy, in my mind, body and spirit. The spark of motivation comes back. Just that one thin sliver of light is enough to encourage me to take bigger steps in my healing and my growth.
For me, whenever I had my exercise connected to looking better, burning calories, or losing weight, it wasn’t enough to create the kind of consistent motivation I was longing for. The only thing that has ever done it for me was knowing that if I exercise, I get to let some light into the room. If I exercise, I get strength to climb up out of the pit and process my emotions in a healthy way. If I exercise, I get to feel like I am living an empowered life and that my choices matter.
Emotions can be overwhelming; unforgiveness, anxiety, guilt, shame. Exercise is such a gift because it is one of the things that you can do, that will bring clarity to the chaos in your mind and give you the strength to take that next step. It might be a difficult conversation you need to have, setting a healthy boundary, joining a twelve step program, letting go of a grudge, or getting counseling. Whatever those healing steps are, they are much clearer with that little ray of light shining down on you.
So overcome what you are feeling, and move your body. Move it again and again and again. Not to be thinner. Not to burn calories. Move it to step up out of the dark and into the healing rays of light.