Almost everyone starts a new year with plans to exercise more. But it’s not just squats and sweat that deliver results. Some of the most important exercise happens within.
Every day since the new year I seem to stumble upon a link to an article about weight loss, fitness goals and the latest diet. I find our culture’s obsession how a person looks very troubling and I think if people put as much effort into how they feel, as how they look, everyone would be a lot happier. It prompted me to write this article on the benefits of an inner workout.
There’s no question that we need to nurture both our bodies and minds equally. But in our diet-crazed culture we tend to neglect our inner selves, desperate to keep up with unrealistic body images largely cultivated by the media.
I am always looking for ways to develop my inner self so I welcomed the opportunity to speak with two lovely ladies who shared important insight into how we can transform our lives. Start exercising your inner health now with these tips.
Kirri White: Life coach and Consultant
How important is an inner workout?
It’s incredibly important. Working on your inner self has a ripple effect in all areas of your life. It can boost confidence, optimism and improve your relationships with others and your self. And if you nurture your mind and sense of self, you have more to give others.
There’s been plenty of research to show that people who work on their inner self are less prone to severe depression and anxiety because they’re more adept at handling setbacks.
More and more research is showing that belief impacts everything. How do we cultivate self-belief?
It’s more difficult to achieve your dreams if you don’t have self-belief. All it takes is a little seed of self-belief and then we can nurture it and help it grow. The problem we encounter is when we think we need to do it all today. Whatever it is you want to achieve, don’t put concrete time restraint on it. Be a work in progress.
Keep supporting yourself and develop that self-belief. One way to do this is to take notice of the highlights in your day, the lessons learned, and the improvements. Pay attention to both the good and the bad and review it at the end of the day. A daily reflection like this is a powerful tool.
Are there any ‘instant mood boosts’ that people can practice during the day?
- Correct your posture: if you’re mentally in a slump, your shoulders are probably slumped. Sit up straight and get your body looking confident and assured.
- Music is a proven mood booster. Play it when you need an immediate lift.
- Meditate: Even just 5 minutes a day can make a difference.
- Mind movie: Replay a moment of happiness from your day. Hold onto it and notice how you feel about it.
- Set an intention for day: Be aware of your energy levels when you wake up. What’s your body telling you and how do you want to show up today?
Nikola Ellis: Yoga therapist and counsellor
How important is it to feel good inside and out? Does a healthy body equal healthy mind and vice versa?
There’s no doubt that having a healthy, pain free body has a positive effect on how you feel. However, happiness is not directly linked to physical health. Studies have shown that chronically ill patients who practice mindfulness meditation report a decrease in pain and increase in wellbeing without any changes to their physical condition. Conversely, depression is not uncommon in athletes, despite having a fit and healthy body.
What is emotional strength? How do we develop and maintain it?
Emotional strength is the ability to bounce back after each set back. Life throws us some curve balls and it’s normal to experience the full range of emotions, including fear and anger. The problems start when we can’t get back into balance after being knocked off-centre by a life experience or event.
It’s not just a matter of toughening up – that can mean repressing very real emotions and can make things worse. Acknowledging your feelings is the first step, coupled with a mindfulness practice that helps you develop a clearer perspective.
What are the benefits of yoga for the mind?
The traditional definition of yoga is “Stilling the fluctuations of the mind”. Put simply, it can help override the stories in your head about how you ‘should’ be and why you’re not good enough etc. As Psychologist Amy Cuddy puts it: “Our bodies change our minds, and our minds can change our behaviour, and our behaviour can change our outcomes.”
What are the benefits of meditation?
Numerous studies have shown that meditation reduces stress, anxiety, cortisol levels and pain and improves sleep, energy levels and overall wellbeing. There are many different techniques. Mindfulness meditation teaches you how to be aware of your present moment experience without letting your thoughts run away with you.
Can you suggest a simple breathing technique to start building inner change?
Sit quietly and close your eyes. Take a moment to let everything settle. Now become aware of every part of your body in turn. Start down at your feet, then mentally work up into your legs, thighs and hips. Become aware of your back and shoulders, feel your arms and hands, mentally travel across to your throat, neck and head, then down to your chest and belly. Take your time. Now bring your attention to your breath. Feel it travelling in and out through your nostrils. Keep your mind focused on your breath and each time it wanders off, catch it and bring it back to watching the passage of the breath in the nostrils.
Do you pay as much attention to your mental health as your physical health? Which of these tips do you think is most valuable?