When mental health motivates physical wellness, it pays to put in the work to keep pushing on, as per our Balanced Life columnist
My aunt-in-law asked me recently, “Beta, where does your self-motivation come from to workout daily?” My cousin in Georgia had asked me the same question when we spent a week together in her house towards the end of December. She saw that my luggage included yoga mats, yoga props, resistance bands, and weights. On some days it was yoga; other days, it was weight training or walking in her garage (It rained most of the time when we were visiting) to meet my 10K steps.
My motivation has very little to do about being a certain size. It has everything to do with my mental health and feeling emotionally “light.” I have always loved movement and over the years understood that it does wonders for my mood, relationships, creativity, and productivity. My workouts also lower my stress, release happy hormones, and make me feel strong. They influence my relationship with food and how I show up to life. As an Ayurveda coach and educator, I also see in my line of work how detrimental not moving can be for anyone.
I am an extrovert who recharges around people and loves to move. I don’t need to wine-dine constantly to connect with my friends; doing any activity together is a strong enough glue. Prior to the pandemic, I took Zumba dance classes, practiced yoga, hiked in parks, ran/walked on trails, and swam with friends. But COVID-19 changed everything. We lost access to human connection, outlets for stress release, and simple joys of being in the moment without wondering about illness or mortality. Our mental health suffered with the trauma that was 2020 and 2021. We had a few months in between of the new-normal. But the pandemic dragged itself back in 2022.
Many of us are blessed and might not have any mental illnesses. But as author and organizational psychologist Adam Grant says, “The absence of mental illness doesn’t mean the presence of mental health.” We’ve all had our struggles during this time, and we have all handled it differently. The last two years revealed to me that it was better for my mental health to rely on myself rather than others for finding motivation. This way, I was in control of at least my routine and well-being when the world around me felt like it was a horrific sci-fi movie. Also, it puts less pressure on relationships. Not everyone understands that staying committed to your self-care should be a priority when the world feels chaotic. Not everyone believes they have the privilege to hold space for self-care. I can’t leave others and their personal perspectives in-charge of my emotional or mental well-being.
Even though people are fragile right now, I strongly believe that at some point, we must stop using life prior to the pandemic as an excuse for not practicing self-care. Our wellness is our own responsibility. Reminiscing about the “good ol’ days,” making diet and lifestyle choices that hurt us, and fighting what our present life looks like isn’t the smartest tool to boost your mental health. But I don’t want to be a coach and a healer in my friendships or relationships. Unless you are a client who wants to change their mindset and lifestyle, the onus isn’t on me to help those who don’t think they need the help.
I spoke with Rishi Saurabh, a product manager in the healthcare tech industry who lives in Andover, Massachusetts, about how he finds self-motivation to follow a healthy lifestyle.
Like me, Rishi is happy that weight loss is a good side benefit of his workouts, but that wasn’t the driving factor.
“There were a few aspects that motivated me to start working out and eating right. As I hit 40, my blood pressure was through the roof, and I was going through chronic back pain issues. These things combined with a family history of diabetes and cardiac issues were not making my life easier. My early morning nightmares weren’t helping with good sleep, and I would invariably wake up between 4-6 in the morning. Rather than staring at the ceiling, I decided to work out. Working out in the morning not only helps me keep my back pain under control but the endorphins also help with my mental state.”
I asked Rishi if he works out with anyone (even if virtually), and he said NO. He has the fire within.
He added, “I have seen direct advantages of eating right and working out regularly. There are multiple areas where it has helped me. The first and foremost impact is on mental health. A simple 30-minute workout in the morning goes a long way to set the stage for the day. I feel more energetic, and I can see a dramatic difference in my mood throughout the day. Secondly, I have been able to build my physical stamina to handle demanding work and never-ending challenges with managing two kids. Finally, as I got more disciplined around what I ate and how I treated my body, I was able to get off my blood pressure and other medications. Although I am still being clinically observed closely by my physicians, the doctors are confident I have put blood pressure medications behind me for good.”
So stop that nagging inner voice that says you aren’t fit or flexible or fabulous. You work out because it changes how you sleep, move, eat, and function. Stop waiting for others to motivate you because no one will do it for you. You have the power within, so make things happen for yourself.
“You are confined only by the walls you build yourself.” ~ Andrew Murphy
For more of The Balanced Life on SEEMA.com, check out What Will You Reduce in 2022?