It’s hard to stay motivated to do everything that I think I should do to be healthy and live well with Multiple Sclerosis. It seems like the hope of living with fewer MS symptoms and potentially less disease progression should be enough motivation, but temptation, fatigue and a bit of resentment that I even have to deal with MS demotivate me.
Demotivation can also come from unlikely sources. A few years ago, I saw a physical therapist for hip pain. I described my fitness routines that I’d done for years. It included a daily minimum stretching and activity quota, and I was proud of myself for always doing it. I was very flexible and fairly strong. My habits supported my fitness level.
Accurately, the physical therapist told me I had plateaued with my exercises. I needed to do more strength training to address the hip pain and improve my fitness level. I did the prescribed exercises until the pain subsided, but it was tough doing everything they suggested. I was discouraged that I wasn’t doing it all. Not only did I stop doing the prescribed exercises, I stopped doing my minimum daily fitness regimen.
I took good information, and I mentally warped it into nonsense. Because my previous minimum daily routines weren’t enough, I concluded they weren't worth doing. I justified that I was still active and exercising, I just wasn’t doing it every day.
Put in writing, it’s obviously flawed and unhelpful logic. In my mind, it made sense. In reality, I squandered good habits that were helping me. After a few years without daily stretching, my flexibility and strength diminished. Things that used to be easy are painful. I recently reintroduced my daily minimum regimen as mandatory, and I’m seeing improvement. My flexibility and strength are increasing, and movements are less painful.
Reflecting on this experience inspires me to be more intentional about what motivates me and what discourages me.
Motivation that comes from excitement works better than fear. I have more success working toward goals than trying to avoid potential consequences. I want to feel like I’m being rewarded, not punished.
My resentful and fearful thought process is that I have to exercise so that I maintain my mobility as best as possible, because I have a sucky disease that mostly targets my spine and affects my legs and arms. If I don’t keep moving, I won’t be able to keep moving.
My enthusiastic thought process is that I get to exercise and live in a body that can do things I enjoy. The better I treat my body, the better I’ll feel, the more I’ll be able to do, and the better odds I’ll have aging with MS. If I keep moving, I’m more likely to be able to keep moving.
Both approaches are true, and both work. When my resentful mindset kicks in, I hope to notice it and not give up. I want to remember how much my body has done for me and continues to do for me, and set a goal that excites me. It doesn’t have to be a big goal, it just needs to be meaningful and encouraging. When motivation comes from an enthusiastic mindset, I’m eager to do what’s good for me, and I'm happier overall. It’s a win-win!
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