Mindset and Goals: Mindset and Body

How many times have you started a new fitness program only to be disappointed? How many times have you promised yourself you would eat less and be more disciplined in the kitchen only to completely abandon those plans?
Are you someone who has been a little out of shape for the last ten years despite your best efforts? And who just really wishes they could get the body they’ve already wanted?

The one they see on the covers of magazines? There are a few things you may have blamed for your failure in the past: perhaps you thought it came down to the advice. Maybe you were following the wrong training program? Maybe your PT doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Or perhaps you have unfortunate genetics?Well, if you have read any of the other guides, then you will know that this is mistake number one: blaming outside factors is a surefire way to ensure that nothing ever changes.

In order to make a difference in your life, you need to start taking responsibility. That means developing an internal locus of control. And it is your fault. Here’s the harsh truth: even the worst training program in the world is going to make a difference if you stick with it. If you have the most unfortunate genetics and the only thing you change is to go for one run a week, or to eat one less snack a day; then you are still going to see some difference.

Sure, it is much better to have a good training program and to do your research. But in lieu of that anything will work. So, stop blaming other factors! The problem lies with you. But more specifically than that, the problem lies with your mindset. You possibly already guessed that from the title of this guide. So now let’s dive into the issue and see how you can change your thinking and change your results for the better.

Where the Mind Goes, the Body Follows

So, the biggest problem a lot of people have is this lack of responsibility. That, and a lack of conviction. Many people who claim to want to lose weight or build a toned, muscular body, will only really be interested if they can do so without actually putting in a huge amount of work. The irony is that they don’t even realize that this is how they feel!
The first sign that this is the case, is if you find yourself procrastinating.

How do you procrastinate when it comes to working out and getting into shape? Simple: you read. You spend ages reading about all the best workout programs, you read about all the different diets, you develop a fantastic plan, you join a gym and then you wait until the perfect opportunity  when work is quiet and when you don’t have any other commitments  and that is when you deign to begin your training.

But here’s the thing: there is never a perfect opportunity. Life doesn’t do perfect. Life much prefers to be awkward and difficult and if you try to wait until everything is calm and nothing is in the way, well then you’re going to be waiting a very long time indeed! The whole reason that we do this, is so that we can feel like we’re making progress. Simply by determining that we are going to workout, we feel as though we’ve done something worthwhile.

And in fact, this even removes some of the pressure so that we no longer feel we have to make the effort! There are actually studies that demonstrate this. These studies specifically looked at whether or not we should tell people our goals when we set out do something worthwhile. Often, the advice you receive is that you should tell people goals: that doing so will make them concrete and real and will force you to stick with them.

How has that been working out for you so far? The reality  according to the research  is that telling people your goals actually releases some psychic tension. Telling people your goals makes you feel that ‘fitness’ is already a part of your personality. And as such, you actually don’t have to put in the real work! Ironically, telling people goals makes you less likely to accomplish them. If you want to tell someone your goals so that you will have a little bit of morale support and encouragement, then tell just one person your goal.

But otherwise, keep it to yourself. Think about that day when you take off your shirt at the beach and everyone sees your incredible six pack for the first time. Let that motivate you! And to prevent the possibility of you looking for outside excuses as to why you aren’t in shape, it pays to hunt down the most effective and simple strategies to get into shape. That’s what we’re going to look at in the next section.

KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid

How do you lose weight through your diet? The problem is that the answer varies just so much depending on who you ask. Some people will tell you that the best way to lose weight is to start eating less. Count your calories and then make sure that you consume fewer calories than you burn. This way, you can maintain a deficit and be forced to burn fat stores.

Makes sense. But another blog will tell you something different. It might point out that counting calories is actually difficult to the point of being nearly impossible. And not only that, but it’s also boring and sure to put you off after a while. Worse, it says nothing of nutrition or appetite. If you just eat fewer calories, then technically you can lose weight by eating only donuts.

Which would also destroy your health and leave you hungry and malnourished. So, what do you do instead? According to this crowd, it’s more useful to focus on keeping your carbohydrate intake down. This will help you to prevent blood sugar spikes and will avoid ‘empty calories’ (if you avoid the processed, simple carbs). That way, you are getting only filling, nutritious and whole foods.

Great! Then there are the intermittent fasters and the low fat crowd. No wonder you never managed to lose weight! The other issue is that almost all of these diets are complex, they are hard to follow and they are unsociable.They often involve spending large amounts of time in the kitchen cooking and they can get expensive. What is the most important part of any diet?

Simple: that you stick with it. There is actually no point in starting a diet unless you can sustain it indefinitely. If you start a diet and give up in two months, then you will put the weight back on! Okay, so let’s simplify.None of these diets is wrong. They all have good points. The problem is they go too extreme in one direction. As is so often the case, the ‘middle way’ is best.

In this case, the middle way means:

One strategy that I highly recommend for losing weight, is to eat less at breakfast and less at lunch. These two meals make it much easier to cut down because they don’t tend to be social. While your dinner might be something you have with family in front of the TV, with your partner, or out with friends; lunch and breakfast tend to be eaten quickly around work and commuting.

Thus, you can eat more boring meals and you’ll be less likely to get tempted by the more indulgent options. Okay, so what about your training? This is a little more complex, seeing as the best kind of training will depend very much on your current physique and the type of body that you are interested in developing. You will likely train differently depending on whether you want to build muscle or tone down for instance.

That said, weightlifting is something that can benefit a huge number of people  including women who want to get lean and toned. Muscle is metabolically active, meaning that when you become more toned, you actually burn more fat even when you are resting!  The other useful thing to recognize is that when you tone your muscle, you can hide fat by pulling it in and you can even make your skin appear more taut.

Got stretch marks? Dieting isn’t actually what you need and neither is cardio  it’s muscle tone that will hide this!
Doing a little cardio is important too though, for weight loss and for your general health. Now, you might be tempted by HIIT workouts. These are ‘High Intensity Interval Training’ regimes that involve sprinting for short amounts of time and then alternating that with brief periods of rest.

The allure here is that it is reportedly very time saving and very efficient. You can use this training to burn fat and increase your health in a fraction of the time. But at the same time, what many people miss is that this type of training is far harder than it is often made out to be. This takes a huge amount of will power, dedication and a basic level of fitness to begin with.

It is not the best option for most people starting out. Not only that, but running or swimming etc. can actually yield benefits that other types of exercise simply can’t. So instead, I recommend starting jogging short distances, swimming or running. You can do this once or twice a week and combine it with a generally increased amount of physical exercise during your day.

Walking more is one of the easiest ways to start improving your health and fitness and burning more calories in a day.
The workout I specifically recommend is this:

Add this into your routine in the way that suits you. That’s three gym sessions, one cardio session and a few long walks which can be tied in with your commute, trips to the shops to get milk etc. The most important aspect of your mindset here though? Making sure that you don’t overdo it.Whether dieting or working out, one of the biggest mistakes we tend to make is to try and get the change immediately.

This impatience is another aspect of our mindset that can prevent us from reaching our goals. People want to see their abs tomorrow, or this summer. They want to have massive biceps in a few weeks. Thus, they take up intense training programs because they want to feel like they are ‘doing something’. So many people will begin running and try and go 10 miles or more in their first session. Or they’ll ‘only’ do five miles but they’ll run fast the whole time.

It’s painful, tiring and exhausting. They come to the conclusion therefore that they ‘don’t like running’. The reality is not that they have a problem with running but rather that they have started with too much too soon. The same thing happens in the gym. So instead what you should aim to do is to begin your training in a light and gentle way. Start out by just running 1 mile at a slow pace. In the gym, maybe just try a few different exercises on low weights. Do this for a while.

The aim is not to lose weight or build muscle in the first week. Not even in the first month. Your first aim should be to learn to enjoy the activity. Do it for you. Do it for fun. Over time, you’ll build up your health and fitness naturally as you do. It’s impossible not to do that. And as you do, you’ll find yourself running further and faster and lifting heavier as a result. But don’t rush it. Just enjoy it. Your MAIN goal is to make this a part of your life.

Goal Setting and Energy

And with that in mind, consider carefully the way that you are going to set goals. What too many people will do with their goal setting is to focus purely on a distant end result. Maybe they want abs by the time summer comes around. Maybe their goal is to lose 2lbs and fit into their dress. This is the wrong way to think about it though, because it gives you much too much flexibility and means you can make excuses.

You might decide to take it easy tonight and to try harder to tomorrow. It’s also too much out of your control, leaving plenty of excuses for you to make. So instead, I want you to make your goal simply to train every week. This is a goal that is immediate, in your control and immediately rewarding. Every week, if you manage to train at least once (or twice, you set the parameters) then you have succeeded.

The abs, the dress, the biceps these are not goals. This is the vision and this is what will motivate you to accomplish your goals. Finally, I want you to keep energy in mind. Energy is finite and you only have so much of it. If work is leaving you exhausted and if your commute is stressful, then you aren’t going to have much energy at the end of the day to work out. So, conserve that energy and carefully consider the ways you can maintain it or increase it.

This is why nutrition is very important. It’s also why you need to make sure you are getting adequate sleep, giving yourself opportunities to rest and generally making sure your life outside the gym is healthy and nourishing. If you are coming home every single day with absolutely no energy and you feel achy and stressed, then no manner of training program is going to help you.

Meditate, take holidays, use supplements and sleep more. And if none of that works then consider leaving your job for something less stressful. Ultimately, one of the biggest and most important aspects of having the right mindset is knowing how to prioritize. Your health and happiness should take priority. If you are never going to be in shape because of your work, learn to accept that and then leave your job. It might be the only way to get what you really want from life.

Meditation to Lessen Stress

While all these changes can help, there is one thing that is more powerful than any other tool when it comes to combating stress: meditation.



Meditation is something a lot of people don’t fully understand. There is the assumption among some that meditation is somehow ‘mystical’ or that it is necessarily linked with religion. Neither of these things is true.

There are many different types of meditation from transcendental, to mindfulness, to religious meditation but all of them really just have one thing in common: they involve the purposeful direction of attention inward.

Whether it is reflecting on your own thoughts, praying or just sitting silently and trying to clear your mind, meditation involves making the conscious decision to take control of what you’re thinking and to try and stop your thoughts from jumping around everywhere. And when you do this, you will find it has a truly profound effect on your ability to stay calm in stressful situations, to control the nature of your thoughts and to combat many of the negative effects of stress.

In fact, studies show us that meditation can improve the areas of your brain that stress destroys – actually increasing the amount of grey matter in the brain and the amount of whole-brain connectivity. Furthermore, it can help to improve areas of the brain specifically related to motivation, attention and willpower. One study shows that it only takes 8 weeks to see amazing positive changes to the brain and restoration of grey matter in particular.

People who use meditation will usually report that they feel generally calmer, happier and more at peace throughout the day. This results in a better mood, heightened attention and general improvements in cognitive function and productivity.

All these things mean that meditation is actually the perfect antidote to stress and can undo a lot of the damage that meditation causes. Apart from anything else, meditation will help you to take a small break from the constant stress of daily life and from the racing thoughts that come with this. More to the point though, it will teach you to take control of racing thoughts at will and simply to put them to one side.

Meanwhile, allowing your brain some time to enjoy this highly relaxed state will encourage the reparation of neurons and the cementing of things you’ve learned through the day.

Finally, it makes sense that areas controlling self-control would develop during the process of meditation. Meditation uses certain brain areas and we now know that the more you use an area of the brain, the more it grows. This works just like using a muscle and is a process known as ‘brain plasticity’.

And by practicing reflecting on your own mental state and being more aware of your own emotions, it only follows that you would better be able to control it and to avoid letting stress or impulse get the better of you in future.

How to Get Started With Meditation

So this is what meditation does for you and why it is the ideal antidote to stress.

The next question is how can you get started with meditation? Do you need to attend a class? Do you need to be a Buddhist monk?

Fortunately, meditation is actually pretty simple and this is what ends up making it hard even in some cases. A lot of people who first try meditation feel that it is too simple and thus assume they must be doing something wrong!

The easiest way to get started if you’re a complete beginner, is to try guided meditation. Guided meditation means using a pre-recorded script that will talk you through everything you need to be doing at any given stage. Essentially, this works to help direct your attention and show you what you need to be reflecting on or paying attention to at any given time.

A good one to try is ‘Headspace’. This is available as a website and as an app and in either case, you’ll find a selection of guided meditations to walk you through. The only downside is that headspace is not free and that after the first 10 sessions, you’ll have to start paying.

Fortunately, those first ten sessions are more than enough to give you a taste of meditation and to teach you the basics. From here, you’ll then be able to take what you learned and re-apply it in order to continue on your own.

If you’d rather not start a paid system though, then you can always use one of the many free YouTube videos that will do the same thing!

In general, most guided meditation will take you through the following steps.

To start with, you will sit somewhere comfortable and close your eyes. Set a timer for 10 minutes, or however long you have until you need to be doing other things. While you should be comfortable, you shouldn’t be too reclined or generally put yourself in danger of falling asleep!

The next thing to do, is to bring your attention to the sounds and the world around you. This means just listening to the sounds and noticing what you can hear. This is an interesting exercise in and of itself: if you actually stop to listen you’ll be able to pick up on a lot more information than you were probably previously aware of.

Don’t strain to listen but instead just let the sounds come to you – whether those be barks from dogs next door, the sound of birds or perhaps chatter from someone in another building that you can hear through the walls.

After you have done this for a little while, the next step is to bring your attention in to yourself and to notice how your body feels. This means noticing the way that your weight is distributed on your buttocks. Is it evenly distributed? Are you leaning slightly to one side? Likewise, try to notice the air against your skin, the temperature, any aches and pains etc.

You can then try the ‘body scan’. This is something that some people use as the main basis for their meditation and it involves focussing on each part of your own body, starting right from the head and then moving down the body slowly from the face, to the chest, to the legs, to the feet. Each time you get to a point on your body, make a conscious effort to release any tension you might be holding there and to relax.

You can even turn your attention inward further by seeing if you can feel the beating of your own heart, or the movement of your diaphragm.

Either way, we’re now going to focus on breathing. This is something that a lot of people will again use as the entire basis of their meditation. Simply count the breaths in and the breaths out and each time you get to ten, start again. The aim now is to have all of your focus and all of your attention on the breathing and not to be distracted by anything outside.

Now, from time to time, you will notice that your thoughts start to drift and that you end up thinking about other things. This is a fantastic example of just how hard we find it to focus on any one thing for a given period of time. It’s a fantastic example of just why you need this meditation!

Don’t fret when it happens though. This is the worst thing you can do! Instead, simply ‘notice’ that your mind has wandered and then bring your attention back to your breathing again. Each time it drifts off, just re-center and don’t worry about it.

Focussing on the breathing is simply giving us a way to center our thoughts and to remove the distractions that normally interrupt. This could just as easily work by focusing on anything else: for example, some people will focus on a single word called a ‘mantra’. A mantra is what is often used in transcendental meditation for instance and might mean just repeating the word ‘Om’ in order to busy your internal monologue.

Finally, the last stage of our guided meditation is going to be to just let the thoughts wander freely and to let them go wherever they want to.

This last stage is essentially mindfulness meditation. The idea is that you’re going to detach yourself from those thoughts and simply ‘watch them’ rather than feeling emotionally affected by them.

This last part is the part where you get to really relax and stop ‘fighting’ your brain and it’s a great way to end. Then bring your focus back to your breathing, then back to your body, back to the world around you and eventually open your eyes.

7 Things you can do to relax

We face new challenges each day and in the long run these challenges contribute to high stress levels. Stress can affect our well being and reduce our productivity. If we let pressure build up we can end up harming others, making irrational decisions, and in extreme cases we vent out our stress to others. Therefore it is vital that we find a way to reduce stress levels. There are various ways we can unwind and here are 7 Things you can do to relax.

Do some yoga

Find a quite room and do some yoga. Yoga helps your body and mind relax. You can lookup brief yoga routines on YouTube and practice them. Yoga will help you release all the pressure that has been building up in your body and it is also beneficial for your body.

Listen to your favorite genre of music

Listening to music lets you get loose. As you get to listen to favorite musician you forget what is troubling you which in turn reduces your stress levels. A good thing about music is that you can plug in your earphones and separate yourself from the stressful environment.

Take a walk

You might opt to walk or jog into the park and enjoy what mother nature has to offer. If you leave in a noisy neighborhood find a quite place to walk. This lets you organize your thoughts and you get to view things from a clearer point of view. Find time in your busy schedule and enjoy the walk.

Play games

Computer games or physical games can do. If you love staying indoors then computer games will help you vent out the stress that has been building up in your body. You can play board games against your friends and it will hep you focus on something new other than your problems.

Hit the gym

The gym helps you relieve all the mental and muscle tension that builds up during the day. Your job could be demanding that you stay seated for a long period of time and this is bad for your health. Weight lifting will help you reduce all this tension that has been building up. You also get to socialize at the gym which is very healthy.

Watch movies

Watching movies lets you forget what has been stressing you . Take sometime off and watch a movie on netflix or in a cinema. Movies are enjoyable to watch and we can dedicate weekends to watching movies. You can also watch documentaries if you are not a fan of movies and you will learn new things.

Travel

Visiting new places is one of the best stress relievers. You can save for a vacation and to get your mind off the things currently stressing you. On vacation you get to interact with new people and learn their diverse cultures. Traveling helps you reduce tension in your life and you can take your family with you.