Do you know anyone who has started an exercise program and then abandoned it after a few weeks or months? Maybe you are one of those people! It’s very difficult to maintain the discipline and motivation to keep a workout regime going over the long haul, especially if you don’t see or feel the results you were hoping for. In fact, only a tiny fraction of the people who start exercising maintain a consistent regimen over time. It left me wondering whether practicing mindful meditation can help.
I learned that the key to committing to a regular workout program is something called dispositional mindfulness.
Dispositional mindfulness is the ability to bring mindfulness to everyday activities. It involves being fully present and aware from moment to moment. Although dispositional mindfulness is different from state mindfulness, which is what you achieve during and after meditation, practicing meditation increases dispositional mindfulness over time. Achieving mindfulness during your regular meditation practice will spill over into your daily life and help you stay alert and aware from moment to moment.
So why are you more likely to maintain a regular exercise regimen if you exhibit dispositional mindfulness? The reason is that people who exhibit dispositional mindfulness are highly attuned to what is going on inside their mind and body. Approaching emotional and physical sensations in a mindful way can positively influence our responses and choices, which can help us achieve our fitness goals, whatever they happen to be. And exercising more helps to reduce stress because physical exercise increases the production of endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters (chemicals released by our nerve cells that transmit signals to other parts of our body) that help relieve pain and induce feelings of pleasure or euphoria. (the opposite of stress!) So it’s a happy cycle – practicing mindfulness makes you more likely to exercise and exercising lowers your stress level and lifts your mood!