The potential benefits of exercise for our mental health are undeniable. Exercise can help with stress and depression, they can even be a tool to help people build more confidence. However, we usually need exercise the most at times when we are less likely to have the mental fortitude necessary to form a new habit.
The good news is that you can do things to add daily exercise to your routine a little easier. Here’s what you can try.
1 – Set realistic goals
It’s easier to stick with an activity when you are trying to meet a goal. It can be trying to exercise a certain amount of time every day, reaching certain milestones every week, or even training yourself for an upcoming competition. This can take some experimentation, but eventually, you’ll be able to find something that helps keep you driven.
Remember to be honest with yourself and set achievable goals. Don’t set goals based on what you think you should do; base them on what you can do. Most people feel discouraged after setting an impossible goal for themselves and failing to achieve it, which is something you’ll want to avoid.
2 – Set up sources of motivation
Motivation isn’t a binary thing, you can’t just decide you want to do something and expect that initial decision to drive you forever. Having constant encouragement and reminders of why you are going through the effort of exercising every day will be fundamental to help renew that initial spark of motivation.
Where to get that motivation from is up to you. Some people like inspirational posters, music, or images. Others like to be part of support groups or ask to get encouragement from their friends or family. Having a support group or a personal trainer who holds you accountable when you skip a day may be what you need to keep yourself exercising regularly. You’ll have to find what works for you.
3 – Find activities you enjoy
The word “exercise” often brings to mind images of sweaty gyms, but most exercises that elevate your heart rate can also provide the mental health benefits you are after. This means you are free to keep looking until you find an activity you enjoy doing, be it going to the gym, riding a bike, running, doing a martial art, or even dancing. If you can find something you enjoy, your chances of turning it into a habit will increase tremendously.
You can also get some excitement by trying new versions of stuff you enjoy. If you like biking, take a ride in the mountains. Dancers can try new genres, and sites like Runtrails.org make it easy for runners to get into trail running. Keep an eye on these and other ways to make sure your preferred activity doesn’t get boring.
4 – Track your progress
Tracking your progress over the weeks and months is a great way to keep yourself motivated. Not only does progress tracking allow you to see where you’ve been and how far you’ve come, but it also incentivizes you to keep going. After all, if you stop for too long you’ll lose some of the muscles and endurance you’ve built.
Progress tracking also lets you compare your results to that of other athletes, keep tabs on what your best results were in the past. Both can give you something to work towards as you try to beat a specific time or previous result.