Mindfulness is the act of being present, being in the moment, feeling the here and now.  Typically it is practiced through meditation, but you can apply it to physical health activities as well.  As an example, to be mindful while lifting (lets use biceps curls) is to focus on that individual muscle you are working.  Feeling the strain, breaking down of the muscle, if you will. Focusing on the upward movement as you curl the dumbbell towards your shoulder, as well as the downward motion.  Feeling  the perfect technique and literally working the muscle with your thoughts/brain as well as your body.

The article/study below shows how you can actually perform this task WITHOUT LIFTING A WEIGHT and get physical results!!  So, in a sense, by being mindful and focusing on the muscle groups you are working out may actually lead to greater results than if your mind was elsewhere.

Seeing is Believing: The Power of Visualization 

“A study looking at brain patterns in weightlifters found that the patterns activated when a weightlifter lifted hundreds of pounds were similarly activated when they only imagined lifting.  In some cases, research has revealed that mental practices are almost effective as true physical practice, and that doing both is more effective than either alone. For instance, in his study on everyday people, Guang Yue, an exercise psychologist from Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, compared “people who went to the gym with people who carried out virtual workouts in their heads”. He found that a 30% muscle increase in the group who went to the gym. However, the group of participants  who conducted mental exercises of the weight training increased muscle strength by almost half as much (13.5%). This average remained for 3 months following the mental training.”

Mental imagery is essentially the practice of visualization and projection of pictures in your mind that aren’t actually present.  This practice is extremely helpful for creating, believing in and seeing the future/things you want to bring into your life.  The practice of mindfulness = the here and now, the practice of mental imagery = the where you want to go.  Mental imagery is a powerful tool, as is mindfulness, we can use to improve our health.  Here’s an example of the practice (taken from the same article above):

“Begin by establishing a highly specific goal. Imagine the future; you have already achieved your goal. Hold a mental ‘picture’ of it as if it were occurring to you right at that moment. Imagine the scene in as much detail as possible. Engage as many of the five senses as you can in your visualization. Who are you with? Which emotions are you feeling right now? What are you wearing? Is there a smell in the air? What do you hear? What is your environment? Sit with a straight spine when you do this. Practice at night or in the morning (just before/after sleep). Eliminate any doubts, if they come to you. Repeat this practice often. Combine with meditation or an affirmation (e.g. “I am courageous; I am strong”, or to borrow from Ali, “I am the greatest!”).”

You can easily apply these techniques to a specific health goal, like weight loss, improved physique, etc. It may seem a little odd, but this stuff really does work!  Another study the Prometa Health team came across compared two groups of people with injured arms.  One group was asked to perform mental exercises on their casted arms (they imagined physically rehabbing their arms vs actually doing the rehab) while the other group did not perform any mental exercise.  Guess what… the group who performed the mental exercised healed faster than the other group.  

It’s so important to focus on the positive thoughts and envision your lives as something greater than they are today. We are wired for “fight or flight”, wired to survive, wired to be negative due to our evolution and environments.  The good news is that we can overcome that pretty easily (not necessarily quickly) by simply engaging in purposeful thought, mindfulness and mental imagery.  We can also utilize mental imagery to get rid of the negativity in our lives.

An interesting NLP technique (neuro-linguistics programming) called “moving images” to help with pushing out the negative and focusing of the positive can be found in this article:

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) – Skills You Need

  • Imagine an image of someone who annoys you. Concentrate on how the picture appears in your mind.  **or something that stresses you out
  • Make the image smaller, put it in black and white, and imagine it moving away from you. Notice how this makes you feel.
  • Imagine a picture of something that makes you feel good. Make it bigger and brighter, and move it closer to you. Notice how this makes you feel.

“The idea behind this thought process is that it helps you see how people or events affect you and understand the way you feel about them.  By manipulating images in this way, you are teaching your brain to magnify good feelings and make bad feelings weaker.”  

The key is to really focus in great detail everything about what it is you are trying to push out of your life (the same goes with the positive things you are trying to attract and accomplish in your life).  This is almost its own form of meditation.  Give mindfulness and mental imagery a try; you can really change the way you physically feel just by your thoughts!

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