For most of my life, exercise was something I did mainly for it’s shallow benefits.
Yeah, I know it’s supposed to be “good” for you and all that jazz…but really, I just wanted to look decent with my shirt off.
Hey, you know you do too!
But recently, I’ve made a big shift in how I view exercise – and it’s made a world of difference:
These days, I workout to FEEL good rather than LOOK good.
It sounds insignificant but it’s made a huge impact on my life.
I know that exercise’s benefits as a mood/energy booster and stress reducer are well known. But for some reason, I always saw those as SECONDARY benefits.
But lately, I’ve become more attuned to how powerfully exercise affects my emotional state, my mental acuity, and my stress levels.
In other words, the factors that contribute directly to HAPPINESS.
Once I made that connection, it was hard not to see that as the PRIMARY benefit.
My friend Jesse has a similar viewpoint. When he was going through an extremely trying time in his life, he said only two things got him through: meditation and exercise.
And when he recently hurt his ankle, he was bummed – but not because he’d put on some pounds or miss his weekly basketball games. The first thought in his head was, “Crap, I’m gonna be sad!”
People have always recommended working out as an antidote to depression, but that was something I always kinda rolled my eyes at – like the suggestion to drink 8 glasses of water a day (which, by the way, you should also do).
But over the past few years, as I’ve had to struggle with the depressive effects of hypothyroidism, I’ve become keenly attuned to my daily emotional states.
The days I workout – even for a short 5 minutes – versus the days I don’t, are in stark contrast.
Even a quick workout will get the blood moving, boost energy and motivation, and bring in a flood of feel-good endorphins.
When I was working out regularly vs. not, it was amazing how differently the world would look and feel – and what kind of thoughts and decisions I’d make.
Look, getting your sweat on is not going to fix everything or cure depression. But it helps. Greatly.
At a bare minimum, it’ll elevate your daily emotional baseline by a few notches.
From there, it becomes that much easier to tackle everything else in life.
And ironically – the more I focused on FEELING good rather than looking good – my body ended up getting into the best shape of it’s life!
Funny how that works, huh? But it makes complete sense.
See, workouts used to be something I dreaded.
When the goal was nebulous (to be “healthier”) and far off into the future (to look good for summer), it was easy to lose motivation.
And when I was only doing it for a distant payoff, the workouts became a grind. A grueling to-do item I had to check off for some long-term goal.
But when the goal was to FEEL good, the payoff became IMMEDIATE!
I knew that right after a workout, my endorphins would flood, my energy would peak, and I’d feel fucking ALIVE.
When this became the focus, workouts became addicting. And something I began to look forward to.
This made it easier for me to finally make working out a near-daily habit. Even if it was just jumping jacks or a quick 7 minute workout – as long as it made me sweat, I’d get those feel good benefits.
Which made it easy for me to keep coming back, day after day, week after week, month after month.
And since consistency is the MOST important factor when it comes to working out, this was nothing to sneeze at.
Another key shift: it made my workouts much more attuned to what my body needed.
Sure, some days I’d feel like pushing myself and taking things to the limit.
But other days, I’d feel like just doing a light jog. And that was totally okay.
What our bodies want and need changes on a daily basis.
By focusing on what feels good, you’re actually paying attention to your body and getting in tune with it – instead of just treating it like a mindless machine.
Focusing on feeling good is just another way of getting into harmony with your body.
It’s becoming one with the body. Recognizing it’s needs and wants as your needs and wants.
And when that happens, your body responds. And flourishes.
Your energy rises. Your mind sharpens. Your happiness increases.
Workouts go from tiresome drudgery to acts of self-love. Celebrations of aliveness.
And on top of all that – you end up looking pretty good too!
Not a bad deal, huh?
Photo by Kasuma