Monday, May 12, 2014

Avoid the Militant Mindset

What's more enjoyable:  doing something because you want to do it, or doing something because you're forced into it?

For many of us, it's more satisfying to do things when we feel like doing them. Yet, in life and in health it's easy to develop a militant mindset in which we become overly strict and focused on rules that we impose on ourselves. Not only does a militant frame of mind make us overly critical of ourselves and our lifestyle, it also takes us farther away from what we truly want. A lot of times, this mindset can block you from asking yourself what you want altogether.

Being healthy in life doesn't have to involve pain and suffering. The image comes to mind of clocking five days a week at the gym, drinking green-colored smoothies every morning, tolerating handfuls of supplements, keeping up with fear-based research on what food is healthy versus not, and nervously eying the weight scale. Is this a picture of health in your mind, and is this how you want to live?

Ask yourself where in your life you're excessively militant toward yourself. We can all benefit by easing back from rigid and forceful approaches in life. Let yourself have some leeway throughout your days, and see what you can learn about yourself and your health in the process. You may find that the militant approach is stemming from your fears rather than your true inclinations. This mindset often gives us the false impression that we're in control of everything when we're actually nervous about uncertainties in life. Fears and worries still bubble underneath the militant mindset, no matter how much we're convinced we're doing everything "right."

It's easy to spring to the "have to's" and "musts" first thing in the morning. Try a different approach once in a while so you can practice avoiding the militant mindset. Ask yourself what you want to do for a change. Doing things when you feel like doing them, whenever possible, sparks real energy behind your actions and puts a natural spring in your step. This practice also helps you to be less critical and judgmental toward yourself, as well as less punishing about "not doing the right thing." Consider that if you're doing what you want, then it is the right thing and perhaps the best thing for your health. 

This week, challenge yourself to step away from the militant mindset, and see how much more you can enjoy yourself and health in the process.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Take Charge of Your Fears

We all have "those moments" come up. The moments that seem to paralyze our bodies and minds, shake up all notions of who we are, and to suggest that we don't have what it takes. FEAR. Whatever form it takes and however daunting it appears, fear actually isn't a bad four-letter word. When fear comes up in life, it presents a unique opportunity for us to learn and to grow. We all have fears, and whether they stop us in our tracks or propel us forward toward what we want---depends on what we do with them.

There is a tendency to want to ignore fears, fix them, and hope they'll go away on their own without the attention they're asking for. We can start to believe that the messages the fears seem to be sending us are true, and we seek to avoid them even further. On top of that, there are often internally- and externally-sparked messages that if we feel fear, that we're weak and lacking in courage.

The truth is, there can be no courage in life without fear. There also can't be real excitement, determination, enjoyment, and pride. Squashing out the natural emotion of fear in life tends to squash out life in general and limits how we express ourselves as unique individuals. When fear is knocking loudly on the door, it's asking us to open up to something new in life, and it's often something that we're ready to handle at that point. If we ignore the fear, it keeps knocking anyway while waiting to be noticed. Eventually, we can start to feel scared of even being afraid and this suppression takes up much of our time and energy.

There is no solution to fear, and there doesn't need to be. Fear is a natural and potentially energizing part of life, and its source in the body is closely tied to the same place excitement comes from too. Both the feelings of fear and excitement release similar hormones and neurotransmitters in the body. Instead of letting fears take us over and rule how we live, we can learn to take more charge of them. Acknowledging fears as part of reality allows us to take pressure off of ourselves and the need to be perfect. Instead, we can learn our way through the scary experiences. If we let ourselves face fears and process them, we can use the energy that is contained within them to live life how we want.

Luckily, there's no magic trick to facing fears. They're actually right in front of our faces and waiting to be noticed, if we allow space in our lives for them. Start by opening the door that fear is knocking on and saying, "I feel scared of _____________."