An interesting thing happened to me while I was out on a walk.
I used to run long distance, but due to various injuries and a surgery over the past two years, I’ve been limited in the types of exercise I can participate in.
But the other weekend I decided to go for a 3-4 mile walk. It was a beautiful day outside, cool and sunny.
About half way through, the walk gets hilly and a bit more challenging. I’m out of breath. Muscles starting to feel tired. Pretty exhausted in general. Questioning what the hell I’m doing outside when I have a perfectly good couch and Netflix at home. My mind was talking me out of continuing. Pointing out that I can bypass the hills and cut the walk short. That’s when my internal dialogue got real nasty: “You’re so out of shape, how could you let yourself get this way?” (and this is just a mild example).
It spiraled down pretty quick; it caught me off guard.
Here it was a beautiful day outside, and at the first experience of physical discomfort my mind resorted to put-downs. It has been a while since I’ve actively and consistently worked out, so it was tough to get out there. It’s also difficult knowing your body can’t do what it was once capable of.
However, there was no reason for the negativity popping up in my brain.
So I did what any therapist would do (well at least the ones that try to practice what they preach) and started working on shifting my mindset.
I started giving myself credit for what I was doing. “Good job on getting out here today. You’re a trooper for continuing when you want to quit. You’re going to feel good tonight, better than if you just watched Netflix.” And I started smiling (at first by force, then because I started paying attention to the beauty around me). And I finished the walk. I even went a little farther than I planned.
Shifting your mindset is all about perspective.
You get to choose the perspective that will benefit you.
In my walk today I had two options: criticize myself for struggling or praise myself for trying.
Considering the two options, I shifted and choose that option that was going to feel good, help me succeed, and motivate me to try harder.
I can’t think of anything that putting myself down would have accomplished. Honestly, if I would have indulged in the criticism I would have taken the short cut and ended the walk early. Then I would have felt regret and shame at not finishing the walk I had set out for.
Can you think of any time that harshly criticizing yourself has served a purpose?
I talk a lot of choosing joy. And I realize that sometimes it can come across as trivializing.
Choosing to shift your mindset doesn’t change your reality. My reality was that I was exhausted and struggling on a fairly easy walk. This would stay the same no matter what option I chose to focus on.
What did change was my attitude, my perspective, my mindset.
When I suggest to people to choose joy I don’t mean it to be trivializing. There are some realities that will continue to exist, including depression, anxiety, trauma, or ending relationships.
But what shifting your mindset can do is for just one moment, one minute, you can shift inside of you. You can feel a sense of control, no matter how fleeting, over your thoughts and mood.
It’s really all about perspective.
If you have two options, why not choose the one that will be helpful to you and bring something good to your life?
Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento area therapist specializing in helping people lead authentic lives. Adriana’s most passionate about supporting individuals exploring their gender and sexuality, and advocating for the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.