I really wasn't feeling writing a 3-4 page paper on the connection and utilization of exercise to mood modification. In fact, I managed to write many many more pages than that in pointless blog posts before I got around to writing my paper. But, I finally managed to do it.
What gave me that push I needed?
I decided to write my paper as if it were a blog.
World of academia? Meet blogging. While I am sure you have more than a passing acquaintanceship, please understand: this seems to be the only style of writing I can manage any more.
Plus? It's slightly less boring.
I can't, however, be held accountable for the boring nature of the topic. Sorry.
(I do what I can.)
Below is what I actually submitted. I'm curious to see how this works out.
Right now, I am sitting at my desk. It’s Thursday on what feels like day 11 of a 10 day work week. One hour left to go of the working day, one more day until the weekend, but five more days until the winter break. I have yoga tonight but it means finding something productive to do after work while waiting for yoga to begin. It also means not getting home until after 8:00. When, if I just left work on time, I could be at home - glass of wine in hand and on my couch in my pjs - by 4:00.
I’m tired, it’s been a long week, and I would like nothing more than to collapse in a heap on my couch. And, to be fair, I may still decide to do so. However, I know if I stuck it out and made myself go to yoga? I’d be feeling better by the time I made it home. Even if it is 4 hours later than I would have liked. I’ll have more energy, less tension, and generally be in a better frame of mind. Not to mention the calories it will save me from not drinking wine for those four additional hours as well. Overall? Huge win for me. Should be a no brainer, right?
It’s just never that easy it seems. Clearly, if it were, the world at large (pun totally intended) would be thinner, less stressed, and healthier all the way around. We would all make the healthier choice and all live better lives for it. But most of us don’t. Because, often times, the healthier choice is not the easier choice. And it’s not that the harder option is just too hard, but more so that we lack the energy to undertake the harder option. Even if the end result is going to be an increased level of energy. It’s a hell of a catch-22, really.
And honestly, the whole idea of using exercise as a mode to achieve a better mood - if we are defining mood by an absence or decrease of the tense-tired state - is fraught with catch-22s. If I am already tired, I am certainly less likely to undertake any physical activity. Even the thought of prolonged physical activity tires me on an already too-tired day. And tension? Nothing says “let’s get physical” like a tension headache. Although I know, in the logical part of my brain that isn’t impacted by the length of my work week or the fatigue my body is feeling, that exercise is exactly the thing that will work to relieve both ailments.
I’ve always used exercise as a tool for weight loss. Period. Unfortunately, I have always had weight to lose and, therefore, have undertaken any number and variety of exercise programs. Walking. Jogging. (which was a very short lived attempt.) Lifting. Aerobics. Step-aerobics. Tae-Bo. Pilates. Truly, the list goes on and on. And, since I have always used exercise as a means of weight loss, I have always felt it necessary to push myself to the point of near exhaustion in order to feel like I was giving it my best effort. This even, at one time, resulted in a daily exercise regimen that was almost two hours in length. Obviously with the demands of real life, that was not a regimen I could maintain; when it fell apart, it fell entirely apart. It was always all or nothing for me.
Trying to reframe my preconceived notions about exercise is difficult. Truly, it has been harder than I would have expected. Although, I suppose, on many levels, anything that challenges our understanding and perceptions is uncomfortable, at the very least. For me, it goes something like this: “Ughhhh, I’m so tired. Tired and stressed - because, really, when am I not? All I want is down time, comfort food, and a beverage or two. But…. *insert new uncomfortable way of thinking here*…. I know that even 30 minutes of yoga or a brisk walk would make me feel better. And be better for me. And I need things that are better for me. My clothes have been fitting a bit too tightly recently anyway - even the clothes that are not meant to be tight. Well, then, if I’m going to commit to doing 30 minutes, I should at least commit to 60 minutes. There’s not much caloric-burning gain in only 30 minutes. Okay, an even hour it will be. I can do this. I will do this. I will feel better for having done it.”
(by the end of the work day)
“Ughhhhh, I really don’t have the energy to do 60 minutes of anything. Where’s the couch?”
When really? 30 minutes would definitely be adequate for the mood improving benefits to be felt. But instead, I get in my head that I have to put forth more than what is necessary; and I therefore end up opting out of doing it all together. It’s clearly a fault in my logic, but it’s also how my brain is wired to process the concept of exercise.
(Too many years - nay, decades - of dieting, clearly.)
What I need to do is reframe my ideas about exercise and its uses. I know the benefit to mood enhancement that I feel - that’s not something that I struggle to understand. And really, I experience that post-exercise glow more so from doing less strenuous forms of activity, so a simple walk or a few moments of yoga is more than adequate - it’s ideal. Moving forward, I would like to incorporate a daily ritual of movement - not necessarily exercise. Exercise can be done in addition - and should be, if we are to be mindful of the too-tight clothing - but I need to separate the concepts of daily activity for appropriate stress reduction and exercise for weight loss. If I can incorporate both in appropriate use and measure - and yes, make the harder but healthier choice - then surely my overall health would improve in more than one way.
For the record? It’s 4:45 already. An hour and 45 minutes past when I could have left work, but only another 45 minutes until I can head to yoga. I’ll just have a smaller glass of wine when I get home at 8:00 and find my couch still waiting for me.
All things in moderation, after all.