While much is in the media about getting six-pack abs, becoming jacked, and the latest exercise trends, less attention is paid to the foundation underlying all training: the mental game.
For thousands of years, human life was about not getting eaten by lions, avoiding disease, and hoping we did not get outed from our small tribe to then face survival alone. From this, our brains evolved to seek out and search for the negatives in life. It became part of our survival mechanism.
Of course, times have changed.
Today our survival mechanisms mean getting through a day of FOMO looking at our friend’s Instagram, keeping up with email inboxes, managing our ever expanding social relationships, and everything in-between.
Although times are different, we still have a lot of 1.0 software between our ears running the show. Despite being ambitious people looking to learn, grow, and become better versions of ourselves, slowing down to appreciate and enjoy life can prove difficult.
We find ourselves being critical first and focusing on the positives second, especially towards ourselves, our accomplishments, or lack thereof. It can feel like a battle between a negative woodpecker constantly chipping away at us on one end and the loving part on the other end trying to stay positive.
There is an obvious formula for mental well-being: Have consistently good days = have a consistently good life.
Just as consistently practicing effective training in the gym will lead to a stronger body, consciously focusing on a practice that supports mental well-being can carry over to all other aspects of life.
And it all begins in the morning.
As you wake up you are fresh and have the precious opportunity in the first few minutes to set the tone for the rest of the day. Before email, work meetings, and social obligations, the morning is a space before anything has “ruined” your day.
One of the biggest shifts you can make in your life is having a morning routine that ensures you start each day in a good mood and with purpose.
Focusing on the Good
As a type-A personality like myself, it can be hard to slow down and appreciate life and my accomplishments. A few years ago when I squatted 365lbs, a feat I never thought I would accomplish, I thought, “I’m not good enough until I squat 405lbs”
I find without a practice to consciously focus on appreciation, days can quickly get lost to being harshly critical of myself and a “go-go-go” mentality with productivity, but little joy.
That’s where a simple practice can change the whole game.
A 2003 study by Emmons and McCullough found that keeping a daily gratitude journal leads to not just an increased sense of well-being but also better sleep, willingness to accept change, and also helped lower symptoms of physical pain.
Immediately after waking up, write at least one thing you are grateful for. It should be something specific and something that you actually feel grateful for. It helps to close your eyes and visualize it and then put pen to paper.
By focusing on the good each morning, you are priming your brain to unwire negative patterns and building up greater appreciation for life. Just after a week of doing this, you will complain less, appreciate more, and be less reactive.
Use a blank journal. Use your phone. Or use our very own Five Minute Journal.
Making your day great
The second main step to a great morning is focusing on an action that would make your day great. Too often days slip away to busy work without really contemplating what would make your day enjoyable.
From Arnold Schwarzenegger to Richard Branson, they create clear visions each day that move them closer to their goals, make life more enjoyable, and create visions to make their days great.
Maybe it’s reaching out to a coach to improve your performance in the gym.
Maybe it’s giving your partner an hour of undivided attention.
Maybe it’s giving someone a compliment today.
It could be big or small. What’s important is it would be a win you could celebrate at the end of the day.
Some people prefer to write this out the night before, I prefer the morning. Do what works for you.
The described two additions to your morning routine don’t have to last for more than 5 minutes. It’s doing these actions consistently that add up to dramatic results.