Why exercise makes your whole life more content

Are you one of those people who at various points in your life dreaded working out?

There are so many things in all of our full lives that we feel like we should do, that often times doing something that sounds hard...like exercise, just doesn't sound too appealing at all. Self care actually takes work.  Something most of our ancestors only dreamed of having the time to think about since they were too busy finding food, cooking, canning, washing by hand, and doing lots of manual labor.  How is it that in our modern age, when we have so many more conveniences to give us the time to take care of ourselves, we so easily ignore our body's basic needs?

The obvious answer is that we have so many more awesome choices of things to do (ha!) ...but I'll bet most of you feel like you "just need more will-power" or "better self-discipline".  And to be honest, there actually is some truth to this.

When we make a choice to workout when we don't want to, we are actually strengthening a very specific part of our brain.  And over time, the more we repeat the choice to deny our immediate gratification to delay our desire to avoid working out, the more content we feel overall with our lives.

The area of our brain that wants what it wants when it wants is the limbic system.  The limbic system is a set of primitive brain structures located on top of our brainstem that drive our emotions and motivations related to survival. These include fear, anger, and emotions related to procreation, hunger, and safety.  As a mother of twin toddlers, I can tell you this area of getting what one wants is VERY strongly engrained in our DNA.  (bless their little hearts).

The area of our brain that can respond to our desires with rational thinking that is less fear based and more based on long-term gains is our pre-frontal cortex.  This is the area that will allow us to say NO to ourselves when we would rather stay on the couch than get out of our comfort and go for a jog.  It is the "adult" thinking place that tells us to do what is right, just, good, and best for our health and the health of others.

The BEST news is that the more you use your pre-frontal cortex to say "no" to your inner toddler, the more you will create synapses that make it easier and more automatic to do things that once felt super hard to motivate yourself to do.

When I first became a runner, I dreaded workouts and long distance days.  But over time, as I learned to move (literally) past my fears and my initial dread, I found that it became easier and easier to ignore that little groaning inside of me that begged be to stay home in front of the TV.  It didn't happen overnight, but over the course of months and years, I now can say that it's easier to find contentedness in any circumstance because I have repeatedly practiced saying "no" to my immediate gratification.

"What you want and what you need aren't always the same. Be willing to delay short-term gratification for long-term greatness"  -Mandy Hale

I challenge you to step outside your box a little this week and to do something you don't really want to do to see what progress you can make toward YOUR long-term greatness.  Give yourself a chance to say NO to your excuses and self-sabotage.  Because, by the way, you are worth it, and you really are capable!