Overcoming our Negative Thoughts

Taken at Mission Hill Winery in Kelowna. I am unsure who the artist of this piece is.

Exercise.  Working out.  Fitness.  Ugh.   I dread them all.

Working out makes me sweaty.  I don't want anyone to see me all red faced and soaked in perspiration. It takes too much time. It makes me need another shower and that takes even more time. It gives me less time to sit and watch TV or clean my house or read a book.  I'm just not coordinated.  I'm too tired. It makes me sore.  It's not worth it.  I can't do it.  It's too hard. I'll look ridiculous.  I'm too old.  I'm too heavy.  It's too late.

Welcome to my negative self talk.  My exercise thought life. These are the things to go through my head when I think about working out.  And sadly, these are often the thoughts that stop me from working out and getting fit.  

When I look at the list of statements above, it makes me sad because I would never say these things to someone else.  I would never tell someone starting a fitness plan that they just aren't coordinated enough or they're too old or they'll look ridiculous, and yet that is what I tell myself. And I know I'm not alone.

I am willing to bet that a large percentage of people struggle with these types of negative thoughts every day.  And sometimes, as you get older, these thoughts can become more aggressive and lead to anxiety.  So, what do we do about it?  Do we just keep giving in? Do we grab a bag of cookies and sit on the couch?  Do we surrender?  Or do we find fight back?

I am convinced that recognizing our negative self talk and challenging it is the way to go. When these thoughts come to mind, we need to take the time to really think about them and question them.  Here are some suggestions of questions to ask.

First of all, are these thoughts true?  Some of them are.  Working out will make you sweaty and sore and it will take some time but it is still worth it.  Some of them are outright lies. It is not too late, it is not too hard (if you start at an appropriate level) and it is definitely worth it.  Do I really hate working out?  No, I don't. Even when it's hard I enjoy the activity and the feeling of accomplishment.  I have rarely ever finished a workout and regretted doing it.  In fact, I usually feel really proud of myself.

Secondly, am I blowing things out of proportion?  If I get red faced and sweaty and I have to take a shower and that takes another half an hour out of my day, is that really so bad?  If I miss one of my TV shows or the floors don't get swept until tomorrow, will there be any great negative results?  I don't think so.

Thirdly, are these thoughts helping me achieve what I want in life?  If I am constantly telling myself it's too hard or I'm too old or too heavy, I'm going to become discouraged.  Some of the thoughts are just about how I will appear to others.  As if other people are just sitting and waiting to make judgments on me.  Even if they are, should that stop me from being healthy and reaching my full potential?   If my thoughts are hindering me I've got to recognize them and remind myself what my goals are and what's important to me.

I don't think we'll ever completely be rid of these types of negative thoughts and they will continue to crop up in many areas of our lives, but if we continually challenge them and recognize them for what they are, they should begin having less power over us.  If we want to achieve our goals, we have to retain our focus on what we want and be willing to do what it takes to get there.  We shouldn't let anyone stand in our way, not even ourselves.