I was hunting for a video recently about self-massage for the face when I stumbled across a guy called Ian Harvey, AKA Massage Sloth. I was immediately drawn to his gentle voice and at around 4:50 into the video, in a very calm and relaxing manner, he said the following:
‘If you find yourself rushing with this, just remind yourself there’s nothing better that you can be doing right now. There’s nothing more important than your own health.’
That really stuck in my head, because our health is important. We’re just a bit rubbish at putting it first sometimes, especially when we feel stressed.
It’s all about you
During stressful periods we tend to focus outward and self-care can end up taking a back seat. Yet, it’s during stressful times that we need to care for ourselves the most.
Practicing self-care not only helps us feel better it also helps us function better. Our energy levels are boosted, we make better decisions and we are able to give our best to others.
Exercise and voting for YOU
Along with eating the right foods, drinking more water, getting better quality sleep and spending time with people who make you feel good — exercise will help improve the quality of your health.
Sometimes I start class by saying to everyone, ‘this is your hour’. And it really is! If you commit to that hour with full mental focus and physical effort you’ll get the best out of it. Physical activity reduces negative moods and increases positive ones, leading to improved self-esteem and cognitive function.
Every time you get your mat out it’s a vote for YOU and your own health. When you get your body moving you release happy hormones and relieve stress. Smart, huh?
How rituals help
Of course, saying you’re going to do some exercise and actually doing it are two very different things. That’s why so many people sign up to the gym in January and then very quickly stop going. Life gets busy. Other distractions tempt you away.
This is why building a ritual is a good idea. A ritual is a series of steps that you follow to achieve something bigger (an aim or outcome). Think of the tennis player Rafael Nadal. He performs a ritual before each of his serves (puts hair behind ear, pulls nose, adjusts shorts…you get the picture). In fact, his ritual has been criticised for being too long! But it forms part of his mental and physical game. It also helps him work towards his bigger aim of being a champion (he’s won the most French Open titles — 12 to date).
Rituals have purpose and meaning. They are performed mindfully, leading you inevitably from one step to the next so that the aim or outcome is inevitable.
So, let’s say your aim is to go to as many of your Pilates classes as you can so that you can stay pain-free and maintain your best level of health. Creating a ritual and being very deliberate with each step of your ritual means the chances of you not making it to class are reduced.
Here’s an idea of a ritual you might perform before your (online) class:
- On the morning of class gather together Pilates clothes and mat – put them on end of bed.
- Finish work / last task of the day.
- Go to bedroom and change into Pilates clothes and pick up mat.
- Drink a glass of water.
- Freshen up.
- Lay out mat on floor.
- Set up phone / tablet / laptop.
- Lay on mat and spend two minutes with eyes closed breathing calmly.
- Log into class.
Rituals aren’t just for exercise they’re for anything you’re trying to achieve in life. If you follow a ritual you’ll find life gets easier because you’ll find one planned action leads to the next one. And, hey, if making a ritual means you make a vote for your own health more often, that can’t be a bad thing.