Feed Your Mind…Well!

I remember it well: the first time someone told me that I should listen to motivational material (by Tony Robbins, as it happens), my reaction was, “Yeah, right! No way is some hokey set of tapes going to relieve my stress or make me feel any better about my life.”

At the time I was in my early twenties, trying to juggle a huge amount of responsibility in my family’s auto parts business, and I was pushing myself over the physical and mental brink. An older salesman who always seemed to be energized and positive had offered to let me borrow his Tony Robbins’ Personal Power: The Driving Force! 30-Day Program for Unlimited Success tape set, and after a hasty thank-you, I tossed them into the backseat of my car (keeping my skeptical thoughts to myself) and went on with my day.

Little did I know that when I popped the first tape into the cassette player during a moment of boredom on my morning commute the next day that I was at a turning point in my life! Tony Robbins was the first person to teach me (among other things) that I really did have a choice about how to lead my own life, that I didn’t have to stay stuck in my negative thinking, and that I could direct my mind to think more positively.

In the years since that day, I have read many, many motivational books and listened to just as many audio recordings. I have learned that what you put into your mind has a HUGE impact on your attitude and outlook—and thus on the quality of your life. If you’re exposing yourself to new, positive, and uplifting ideas, you’ll be energized and happier. But if you limit your mental intake to depressing news, violent movies, and gripes from everyone you talk to, you’ll be stuck in a negative cycle.

So, even if you think it’s cheesy (as I originally did), I encourage you to give motivational materials a try. Listening to a motivational CD during your morning commute or reading for fifteen minutes as you sip your coffee in the morning can put you in a positive place until you go to sleep in the evening. When you do this each day, you’ll find that your attitude is improved, and that you have learned new tools to eliminate your own self-doubt and self-criticism. By focusing more on all the positive aspects of who you are, what you are doing, and what is great in your life, you’ll find that the whole direction of your life can change. And if you’re not sure where to start, I have a recommended reading and listening list HERE!



Get Active to Get Happy: Why Exercise “Works”

If you’ve leafed through my book or spent more than a few seconds on my website, I’m willing to bet that you’ve seen what I call my “Twelve Weeks to Living a Happier Life.” This program is based on my belief that our happiness (or unhappiness) is based largely on the choices we make regarding our actions, habits, attitudes, thoughts, and priorities. (If you missed it, I blogged about choosing happiness HERE.) Since my “Twelve Weeks” are such a big part of my own life, I’m going to blog about each week’s happiness-boosting change. First up is exercise!

Everywhere you look, our culture bombards us with the topic of exercise, from infomercials touting the latest piece of home-gym equipment to fliers in the mailbox advertising a gym’s grand opening. No matter how sick you are of hearing that you ought to be more active, please bear with me for a few paragraphs, because while I agree with that advice completely, I’m not as concerned with your muscle definition as I am with your mindset.

In a nutshell, I think that physical activity is the single most effective thing you can do right this minute to make yourself happier and much less stressed. I’ve actually been living by this principle for most of my life, though I didn’t realize it until after my breakdown. I was a very athletic kid growing up, and as an adult I’ve always hit the gym on a near-daily basis…until I fractured both of my feet at age thirty-six. This forced inactivity was one of several “triggers” that sparked my breakdown!

Turns out that exercise makes you feel more relaxed, stronger, and more capable of handling life’s challenges. It is also scientifically proven to improve your sleep, and it functions as a natural anti-depressant that will help your attitude and outlook. No wonder I felt unable to handle my stress after I was sidelined by fractures! My single most important coping mechanism was suddenly out of my reach.

I now know that even if you’re not living an out-of-balance lifestyle (as I was before my breakdown), exercise can still do quite a bit to improve your attitude and outlook. In addition to the benefits I listed above, physical activity actually opens you up to future change by invigorating your mind and body. (In fact, my coauthor, Dr. Howard Rankin, who is a licensed clinical psychologist, tells his patients he won’t see them for any reason—whether it’s depression, marriage counseling, or something else—unless they agree to start exercising first.) And as time passes, you’ll gain the added bonus of being happier with your physical appearance as well.

No matter what your current attitude toward exercise is, I recommend that everyone make it a part of their routines (if it isn’t already). And there’s no need to sign up for a boot camp-like class at the gym or hire a personal trainer, either. Actually, that would be a bad idea because the key to making an exercise program successful is to make it doable. Don’t force yourself to do too much too soon.

To start, try taking just a twenty-minute walk every other day. Even better, bring your spouse and/or your children along on your walks. In addition to spending more time together, you’ll be instilling great life habits in your kids. If you make activity a regular part of your life, so will they…and unfortunately, the same goes for living life as a couch potato.

Ultimately, no matter when, where, or with whom you choose to be active, the point is: Don’t make exercising such a big deal that you stall at the starting line. I promise you, you’ll be surprised at what a big difference this first step makes if you keep at it!