However far apart, our mornings are probably just the same. There’s that sting in the eyes you feel as soon as you open them and that blatant pain that keeps on spreading from your lower back all the way up to your shoulders and head. And, finally, the realization that nothing will change, not even today – in the exact same order as the years before, you’ll have some pastry and coffee for breakfast, a tense stomach until noon, and a fuzzy head throughout the day.
Once again, you’ll hear all about the glorious possibilities that the digital age has endowed us with, and once again, you’ll go to bed wondering what makes your muscles so sore and your bones so weak. Another day, you’ll come across an article about all those troubling consequences of a sedentary lifestyle and you’ll try to convince yourself that your fatigue and stress are caused by too much work.
Having gone through all of that myself, I must warn you that extrinsic factors are not always to blame. Your aching lack of movement is a modern disease, indeed, but it still begins in your mind-set. Your choices might be your worst enemy, but the good news is that you can change them for the better.
It will be hard, I won’t delude you. But, once you start waking up with the sun on your eyelids and a smile on your face, you’ll see that it was all worth it.Here’s how to flip your future beforehand, and replace pain, frustration and dispiritedness for vigour, achievements and contentment.
Flight or Fight
It would be foolish of me to assume that you have never tried dealing with your sedentary lifestyle before, so I won’t tell you that everything begins with a plan. The biggest problem, after all, is that all of your organization tricks have probably already failed you, and what you need now is encouragement to carry on.
So, instead of advising you to set up your morning alarm to go off an hour earlier, I’ll remind you of the consequences that await you if you don’t. The terrifying prospect of what my body will feel and look like if I continue choosing Netflix and TV dinners over walks in the rain and oranges was what urged me to make a change, and the same basic fight-or-flight response rests in each and every one of us.
In the Aftermath
You’re most certainly already experiencing some of the side-effects of an inactive life. I’ve mentioned only a couple of them before simply because they are the most common. As such, they are simultaneously infallible indicators of a decaying body and mind, and a red alert that keeps warning you to get up and start moving.
Even though you spend a majority of your time seated – be that at work, where your job is to tirelessly type and click, or at home, where everything you want to do after a whole day of looking up to the screen is look up to the screen a bit more – you somehow cannot get enough rest. You’re constantly tired and sleepy, and you have no idea why. And, worst of all, you have pains in your body and weakness on your mind.
Well, all that is because the human body was developed through movement, and it starts deteriorating if it doesn’t move. When inactive, it rarely does anything at all – your muscles stop burning fat and your blood runs more slowly, thus clogging the flow to your brain, heart, and limbs. No wonder that the consequences are reduced cognitive functions, brain fog and depression, obesity and diabetes, back pain, varicose veins, swollen ankles and loss of muscle and bone strength.
Now that you know all the symptoms you can expect, let me say just one more thing – as estimated by The World Health Organization, a lack of physical activity that the sedentary lifestyle implies is linked to 3.2 million deaths a year. A scary thought indeed.
Finally, here’s how to shake it off.
Time Waits for No One
And, now back to the morning alarm. Whatever phase of your life you’re currently in, you cannot deny that there aren’t more interesting and fulfilling things to do than watching TV. I understand that hard work wears you down, but that was my story too. Sometimes, I would return back home at 8 p.m. and I had zero energy for doing anything else. Still, and it may seem like a phrase, little things are what keeps you running.
Don’t cut off entertainment, just make it productive. The only movie worth re-watching hundreds of times is The Godfather; instead of wasting your time on mindless TV marathons, pen down a list of films and series that will make you elevated and smarter.
The more little things you accomplish during the day, the more you will feel like a winner once your head hits the pillow. Don’t be afraid of scheduling dates, family outings and meetings with friends – in fact, once you commit to something, avoiding it will be much harder.
Finally, arm yourself with a lot of patience, since not all of your productivity and time management hacks will work right away. You’ll need to stay flexible and optimistic and try to cross off one task more from your to-do list every next day. Consistency takes practise and time, but most of all, it takes good will and determination.
Though time management is still something I’m trying to wrap my head around, physical activity is something I’ve mastered, and the best piece of advice I can give you is to start in medias res – not on Monday, not tomorrow, but right away. That way, you’ll have no time to hesitate, overthink it or, as it usually happens, find an excuse.
Carefully designed programs are for professionals, and everything you need to begin with is to shed a little sweat. Don’t plan to go out walking, since that rarely happens. Hit YouTube instead, search for 20-minute workout routines and finish one each day. Speaking from personal experience, these energy boosters will take exactly an hour of your day, given that you’ll need to take breathers in between and take a hot shower afterwards, so stop telling yourself that you have no time for exercising.
And, once three weeks have passed and you don’t see any significant results, remember this – it’s a period of adjusting that your long-time inactive body absolutely needs to go through. In five weeks’ time, the pounds will just start melting away, the compliments will come from every side, your back will no longer hurt, and you’ll be so absolutely hooked on looking and feeling amazing that you will never stop working out again. True story.
Flip the Coin
Unfortunately, the sedentary lifestyle is all about giving up. Once in a blue moon, you feel motivated enough to get all dolled up and grab a couple of drinks with your friends, but mostly, that’s not the case. When given a choice, you almost always walk the line of least resistance. If so, you’ll need to start practicing what I like to call the flip-the-coin routine.
I won’t tell you to choose what’s better for your health, since God knows that nobody does that all the time, the same way that almost nobody chooses pomegranates over chocolate. If having a hard time resisting temptations – and you certainly do, since that’s another symptom of a sedentary lifestyle – make a game out of it and flip the coin. That way, your decisions will not be entirely yours to take, at least in the beginning.
I’ve done the same with fast food – each time I felt the need for something sinfully greasy, I’d allow a coin to choose in my stead. The odds were always 50:50 and the juvenile excitement of playing a game would make me feel less guilty once I got to savour the fries, while those cases when the coin decided differently taught me that junk food was actually something I can do without.
Paradoxically, this game of chance enabled me to regain control over my vices, simply by teaching me to balance them out. A life without simple pleasures is not a pleasurable life, which is why you’ll have to learn exactly when to discipline yourself and when to indulge. Hopefully, this cheatsheet strategy will train you to harmonize self-restraint that a healthy lifestyle imposes and hedonism that your human heart longs for, and empower you to stand behind your choices.
If anything else, you’ll face your worst enemy and pinpoint its weaknesses. No revolution is possible without self-awakening, so allow yourself to dive deep into what you are and what you want to be before deciding to give in or to stand up and fight it off.
Featured photo credit: https://www.pexels.com/u/abbykihano/ via pexels.com