Track Fitness with Feelings, Not Numbers
We live in times where the constant emphasis on productivity results in many of us neglecting our wellbeing. We keep dismissing signs that something is wrong with us mentally or physically, and it’s usually not until we are struck by illness that we start to realize how important it is to look after ourselves, both mind and body.
Something similar happened to me. After years of hard work, first as a professional and then as an entrepreneur, my body began to show signs of burnout. This is when I embarked on a path of wellbeing, resulting in my crystallizing the concept of wholistic wellbeing that I have shared with the world through Roundglass.
When it comes to personal physical wellbeing, chances are you may be using a device to monitor your vitals and activities. The advances in wearable tech today give you enough data about the steps you take, the number of hours you sleep at night, the calories you burn during a physical activity, and so on to help you assess how physically fit you are and reach your goals — or simply stay motivated and on track. But are these statistics the only indicator of your health and fitness levels?
Have you ever thought of using your feelings as a measure of fitness instead? Try going for a run at dawn and feel the crisp, cool breeze and the morning dew on your face as you pace to the soft thud of your feet on the ground. Feel the thrill of playing tennis with your friends or a team sport like football. How about appreciating your body’s amazing capability to surprise you at every turn as you push yourself — lifting more, running longer, or perfecting that Chakrasana, or Wheel Pose? Or the prized feeling of teaching your kids cycling to see more of your own city, soaking in their laughter as you chase them during a game of catch. These are the untraceable big joys of being on the move and being fit.
Here are a few ways for you to track your fitness not with numbers, but with feelings:
With a professional field hockey coach for a father, sports has always been a part of my life. I feel picking up a sport, preferably a team sport, is the best way to stay healthy, get moving, and meet new people. Choose a game that suits you. Ask yourself: do you like to play football, hockey, or tennis, or perhaps just go for a swim? Invest in some basic gear, get access to infrastructure, and make that sport a part of your weekly routine. You will be surprised at noticing the benefits without looking at any device. The pat on your back from a teammate, the satisfaction of pushing yourself to the finish line, and the joy of making new friends is unparalleled. Fitness is bound to come along.
Spend Time in Nature
Don’t let being busy keep you indoors all day. Spend some time in nature every day, even if it’s a few minutes. You could head to your neighborhood park or your garden. Take a deep breath of the fresh air that surrounds you; take time to feel grounded and alive — walk barefoot on the earth as you soak in the colors and forms of the leaves and branches of the trees that hold up a piece of blue sky over your head. Run your hands on the bark of an old tree and experience the beauty and stillness of nature. This activity of spending time in nature is called forest bathing or shinrin-yoku, a Japanese concept that means bathing in the forest environment, opening your senses up to feel and sense the forest. Forest bathing helps you explore the silence, observe the beauty, feel the air, and find peace in the sounds of nature, helping you build a connect with the natural world.
Use Visualization as a Tool
According to a 2018 brain imaging study led by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and Icahn School of Medicine, “your brain on imagination is the same as in reality”. The research showed that imagining a threat lights up similar regions of the brain as experiencing the threat does. What this means is that if you can dream a situation, for your mind it feels real. Previous research has shown that imagining an act can strengthen and activate parts of the brain that are involved in its execution, thereby improving performance.
Why not then use visualization to set wellbeing goals for yourself? Imagine yourself running a marathon or learn a new skill. Chances are as you tell yourself it is possible and imagine yourself doing it, you will find ways to make time for the activity, learn to motivate yourself, and eventually achieve the goal. You don’t need a device to tell you what to dream.
Find Mental and Physical Balance
A recent study published in the "Social Science & Medicine" journal found significant indirect cross-effects between mental and physical health. There is a close relationship between lifestyle choices, physical activity, and mental health. To avoid health problems caused by stress, you must find time to de-stress daily. Take wellbeing breaks to enhance your mental and emotional wellbeing. Start a meditation practice or try mindfulness techniques to recenter yourself, feel focused, and stay grounded. There are different types of meditations, offering a combination of breathwork and yoga (asanas), that you can explore. See what helps you stay in the moment and alleviate any stress you feel.
The next time you want to monitor your fitness levels, take a deep breath and take stock of how you feel. A spring in your step, a smile on your face, and a rush of positive energy are the best indicators of a good day ahead.