I wince in pain again.
My legs hurt so much. I wish I could just take them off for a while.
But my face is smiling. I’m keeping my New Year’s resolution. The pain is proof I’m back to exercising daily.
Exercise and I have never gotten along well. I’m the kind of girl who loves nothing better than curling up on the sofa with a good book. Exercise is my idea of hell.
But I can’t deny that I feel a lot better when I move my body every day. I have more energy. My clothes fit better. I feel happier.
Going on my daily walks in the park was one of the things that helped me the most in overcoming my depression. Moving my body told my brain to release more serotonin, the happy chemicals that improve your mood and help you see the world in all its beautiful, vibrant colours.
Since then, I’ve been going for a walk every day. If, for some reason I couldn’t, I’d do some power walking at home. It’s a daily ritual I’ve come to enjoy because I know it makes me happier and more productive.
But towards the end of last year, I slipped up. Adam was dealing with some personal issues that seriously affected his health. I did everything I could to help but that meant that I fell behind with work. My stress was sky high.
That’s when I needed exercise the most. Instead, in my efforts to catch up and juggle everything, I left it fall by the wayside. It wasn’t long before I started seeing everything gray. My stress levels jumped even higher. And I feel sick three times in a row.
I knew I had to get back on track ASAP. But simply telling myself to exercise wasn’t working. I knew I had to but I couldn’t find the time.
That was my mistake. Telling myself, “I CAN’T find the time”. Instead of telling myself, “I DON’T skip exercise.”
I Can’t VS I Don’t
Imagine you’re trying to get into a daily exercise routine. Your body hurts. You have work to do. And you really fancy a doughnut right now.
You’re tempted to lapse. (Don’t feel bad, we’re all been there).
Will you tell yourself:
“I CANT’ today, I’m too busy/hungry/whatever”
“I DON’T skip my daily walk ever.”
If you’ve chosen option A, you’ll lapse today. And likely tomorrow and the day after. Look, I get it. If you really went too far during your last workout, it’s a good idea to rest and recuperate. But even so, tell yourself, “I DON’T exercise today because my body needs rest” instead than, “I can’t”.
The words you use create your reality.
CAN’T is disempowering. I CAN’T isn’t a choice - it’s a restriction. It says, “I’d love to but there’s some external force that stands in my way. I’m powerless.”
DON’T is empowering. I DON’T is a choice. It says, “I could go down a bad route but I choose not to.” It makes you feel powerful.
This isn’t a trick I’ve just come up with. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that people who used I DON’T were 8x more likely to stick to their goals – whether that was going to the gym regularly, eat healthier or stop watching mindless reality TV – than people who said I CAN’T.
You’ve probably experienced this yourself. Think back about the last time someone offered you chocolate cake while you were on a diet.
When you said, “I CAN’T eat that,” you felt mad. It was like the entire world could enjoy the delicious treat while someone (who?) was forbidding you to. That made you want that cake even more, didn’t it? (Don’t lie, I’ve been there too).
But if you say, “I DON’T eat chocolate cake,” everything changes. Now you can have the entire cake if you wish. You’re simply choosing not to because you prefer to nourish your body with healthy foods. YOUR choice.
You alone have the power to decide what to do and don’t do. Use it.
Over to you, now. How do you break bad habits? Share your experience in the comments below.