I recently heard someone ask their friend, "Are you working out because you love yourself, or because you hate yourself?" I don't know the people involved in this exchange, but it honestly broke my heart to think that some people might only take care of their bodies out of self-hatred. See, healthy living should never be about trying to "correct" something about yourself, or being someone you're not. A healthy lifestyle is one that makes you feel genuinely good about yourself, and according to a new study, learning how to change your mindset about healthy living can have a huge impact on actually sticking to your goals.
The study, which has been published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, discovered that a simple mindset shift could have a huge impact on how you approach a healthy lifestyle. According to ScienceDaily, the research involved 220 sedentary adults, and focused on the effects of something called "self-transcendence" on the participants' mindsets in regards to wellness. In case you aren't familiar with the concept, self-transcendence refers to the act of achieving unity and connectedness with other people, generally through emotions like gratitude, compassion, and inspiration, according to Psychology Today. By pursuing experiences that make you feel part of something larger than yourself, like volunteering, caring for a loved one, or even taking care of the environment, you're able to feel a deeper sense of self-love, the outlet explains.
Similarly in the study, researchers found that self-transcendent exercises, such as thinking about people you love or connecting with a higher power, elicited more activity in the brain regions that controlled reward and positive responses, and caused people to be more active in the month-long test period that followed these exercises. In contrast, the participants who were told to follow basic health tips like "make a habit of walking up and down the stairs whenever you can" were significantly less active than the mindset-focused people in the month that followed.
So how can you use this powerful tool in your own everyday life? First of all, pay attention to the life that you are living, and check in with yourself regularly, says Stacy Goldberg, MPH, RN, BSN, CEO and founder of Savorfull. "Whether you’re working, eating, or exercising, mindfulness plays a key role in self-awareness," she tells Elite Daily over email.
For example, if you want to shift your diet to include more healthy foods, first adjust your mindset by taking away "bad" and "good" as descriptors of what you're eating. Instead of believing that there is a universal "right" or "wrong" way to eat, accept that you are a unique individual, whose body wants and needs different things than the people around you. Someone who has made this mindset shift "is an individual who looks at the immediate choices and direct experiences associated with food and eating, not to the distant health outcome of that choice," Goldberg explains.
So, if you're craving pizza for lunch, try to focus on whether that's a good choice for your body in that moment, not a "good choice" as determined by larger ideas about what is and isn't healthy.
If you're having trouble sticking to your health and fitness goals, another mindset shift that might help involves letting go of the need for perfection from yourself, says Sydney Richards, a registered dietitian with the Under Armour Performance Center. "One way to break this cycle and adopt a sustainable, healthy lifestyle is to banish the 'all or nothing' mindset," she tells Elite Daily in an email. Instead of letting yourself feel guilty about missing a workout or two, look at the time off as an act of self-care for your body, turning it into something positive instead of negative.
At the end of the day, only you and your doctor know what is healthy for your body specifically. You might be someone who thrives on filling yourself with healthy fats on the keto diet, or someone who feels her absolute best sticking to a bounty of plant-based foods. You do you, boo.