Have you ever had something you love turn into a giant, pressure-laden ‘should?’
One day, you don’t make it to the gym (or yoga, meditation, running, whatever it is that nourishes and supports you). You feel guilty, you beat yourself up, you tell yourself how you’ll make up for it with an extra long workout tomorrow.
Tomorrow comes and again, somehow, the day slides by and you don’t go to the gym. The guilt and the pressure to do the workout compounds…as does your resistance to actually going.
Now, when you think of going to the gym, all you feel is guilt and dread.
Now, something you love is just another item on your To-Do List.
Our Bodies – The To-Do List
Most people make lists (in their heads at least if not on paper) of all the things they need to do throughout the day.
Let’s do the same with the needs of our bodies. Take a moment and think about all the things your body needs in order to thrive (yes, thrive!) throughout the day. Go ahead and write those things down if you want. I did.
Keep in mind that my To-Do List is based on what I know makes my body feel nourished and supportive. You list may look similar. It may look very different.
- Healthy food
- Rest (naps)
- Reasonable time to bed
- Getting up before 8
- Daily exercise – walking, hiking, taiji, gentle yoga
- Spending time in nature
- Being with people I love
- Limiting my time on the computer/internet
Just out of curiosity, I asked my body what it needs.
The list, although essentially the same, had a very different quality to it. A quality of playfulness, of being in the moment, of lightness and goofiness. It definitely didn’t have a To-Do quality to it. Here’s that list:
- Feed me (food that helps me feel good, please).
- Walk me.
- Let me rest.
- Oh! Oh! I want to be with others.
- Ok, now, let me sleep.
- I want to be creative, to do something new.
- More exercise please.
- Stretch me.
- Let me be still now.
- Yep, more movement. I like moving!
It’s pretty obvious from my lists that movement is a very important part of my body feeling good. I’m guessing it’s a big one on your list as well. And, like me, I’m guessing you often don’t do all the moving your body may desire.
We know our bodies love to move. We know we feel best when we are supporting our bodies in their need for exercise. So, why aren’t we ecstatically pouncing on every possible opportunity to move?
Things that feel good sometimes become SHOULDS and then we don’t do them.
Here’s an example:
First thing this morning, I went for a walk. The sun was almost shining (Go Portland!), the birds were singing their tiny hearts out and I felt so alive as I walked to the lovely gem of a park just down the street from my house.
Half a block out my door, I thought: “Wow, walking first thing feels amazing. This would be such a great way to start my day every morning.”
Instantly, I felt a slight twinge of panic. A clenching in my stomach. A tightening through my chest constricting my breath.
Even though I so love morning walks, the instant I thought about adding it to my daily To-Do List (which to me translates into ‘something I have to do’), the pressure started to build.
I don’t like feeling pressured.
When I feel pressured to do something, I resist that something. Even if that something feels really great and supports my wellbeing.
Twisted? Yeah. But, that’s what happens for me.
Just like that, something I love turns into a big, fat, ugly, pressure-filled SHOULD. And, just like that, I’m not going to do it.
Now, let’s talk about ways to sustain supportive practices.
First, keep in mind that what works for someone else, may not work for you. Perhaps your friend talks endlessly about how great yoga makes her feel. But you, you just get all stressed out trying to force your body into the various poses. Not a good fit.
Which leads to:
How to make certain your thing actually does nourish and support you.
I think the best indicator is how you feel after doing it.
Does your body feel more relaxed and calm?
How about your thoughts? Is your mind calmer and more relaxed?
What about your emotions? Do you feel more peaceful and connected to yourself and to the world around you?
If you can say YES! to all three, you’ve likely found a good fit for you.
Be gentle, gentle, *gentle* with yourself if you *don’t* do the thing.
The quickest way to turn something into a non-supportive activity is to make it something you have to do. For it to be another item on your To-Do List.
If you find yourself feeling guilty or beating yourself up for not doing your thing, step back and take a look at the bigger picture. Is the sun still shining (behind the clouds, that is, if you live on the West Coast)? Are the birds still doing their bird-thing? In short, life goes on.
In this situation, the most supportive thing you can do is give yourself some slack. The world’s not going to end just because you didn’t do your thing.
Give yourself total and absolute permission to NOT DO the thing.
We are human. No matter how twisted it may seem, it is normal to not do the thing that we know makes us feel good. That’s ok.
The more permission we give ourselves to do or not do (based on what our bodies want in the moment versus on some To-Do List), the more likely we are to actually DO the thing.
Because the pressure isn’t there. Which means there is nothing to resist. Which means we can truly go and do the thing. Because it makes us feel good.
And, because we (our bodies) love feeling good.
This is totally my process as well. That moment of tension when you think to yourself “I should do this every day.” I’m practicing just keeping those things that make me feel good in my mind, but not kicking myself for not doing them. Just remembering that they’re there and they make me feel good…even if they’re hard to get started on.
Sonia Connolly says
I loved the difference between your to-do list and your body’s request list. Another vote for gentleness!
Also, I noticed that our offices are 3 whole blocks apart. Drop me a note if you’d like to get together and talk about bodywork, business, etc. From what I’ve read of your blog, our approaches sound similar, and I’d like to learn more about your work.