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The Introvert’s Guide to Getting in Shape

The Introvert’s Guide to Getting in Shape

I am an introvert–and I’m quite content with this fact–but a lot of my introverted comrades aren’t.

Many think something is wrong with them, largely because our culture holds “the extrovert ideal” in high esteem, says Susan Cain in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts. Extroverts are viewed as healthier, happier, and more successful.

But here’s the thing: both introverts and extroverts have unique skills they can use to maximize their health and happiness.

Several years ago, I discovered how to apply my strengths as an introvert to my health. If you’re an introvert and you’re struggling to get healthy, these are some strategies that will help you.

Eating healthy for introverts.

Research shows that an introvert’s brain is wired differently. We have more gray matter in our prefrontal cortex–the area of the brain that’s associated with abstract thought and decision-making. This helps explain why introverts devote more brain power to analysis, while extroverts tend to live in the moment.

Introverts are masters at processing, digesting, and analyzing data. But many don’t use this skill to their advantage.

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If you’re an introvert and you’re not as healthy as you want to be, start by using your brain.

Read, research, write, explore, listen, reflect, meditate, design, think.

Eating healthy starts with learning how to eat healthy.

Mindful eating is a proven technique you can use to eat healthier, and can be a great place to start.

Step one to eat more mindfully: plan for the worst.

In the world of psychology, this is called an implementation intention. Here’s how it works: if you know a situation is coming up where you might be prone to eat and/or drink too much (a friend’s birthday party, for example), write or state your back-up plan beforehand:

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“When I encounter ______, I will _____.”

Here are some examples:

  • “When I go out to eat tonight, I will order a salad and skip dessert.”
  • “When I go grocery shopping, I won’t buy any soda.”
  • “When someone offers me pizza, I’ll politely decline.”

Implementation intentions are effective for introverts because they give clear instructions on what to do when your willpower muscle goes limp. Research proves they can help you make healthier decisions and stick with your goals.

Spend time thinking through your goals and preparing for challenges, and you’ll give yourself an edge.

One strategy I use and recommend: keep checklists. In the book Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard, Dan and Chip Heath say checklists help you avoid “blind spots in a complex environment,” provide insurance against overconfidence, and make big screw-ups less likely.

In The Checklist Manifesto, surgeon Atul Gawande says:

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“Good checklists…are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything–a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps–the ones that even the highly skilled professional using them could miss.”

Exercise for introverts.

Several years ago, I stopped going to the gym and started working out at home instead. The environment was too over-stimulating for my introverted brain to handle.

Loud, crappy music. Crowded spaces. Hundreds of people.

No thanks.

I found a way to exercise that worked for my personality. I started lifting weights and boxing at home in my basement. My wife and I go for walks or bike rides on the trails by our house. And now I work out 5-6 days a week and I absolutely love it.

The lesson here is simple: if you’re an introvert and you hate going to the gym or to group classes, stop going. Introverts thrive in quiet, minimally stimulating environments.

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I’m all about challenging yourself and getting out of your comfort zone, but doing stuff you hate is unsustainable. When it comes to exercise, forming habits is vital. And to form habits, you need to find something you actually enjoy doing.

Exercise in an environment that matches your personality type. Try working out at home, outside, or in smaller groups. You’ll save money on gym fees. You’ll stop dreading going to the gym. And you’ll increase your odds of developing healthy exercise habits.

As an introvert, you have natural talents most extroverts lack.

Don’t waste them.

Use the power of your inquisitive mind to help you form healthy habits that last a lifetime.

Featured photo credit: Abdullah AL-Naser via flickr.com

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Scott Christ

Scott Christ is a writer, entrepreneur, and founder of Pure Food Company.

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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