You Are More Active than You Think
It’s becoming common knowledge that undertaking 10,000 steps a day yields proven health benefits ranging from better mental wellbeing to reduced risk of heart disease, and some cancers. There is a vast range of digital tools that help monitor our physical activity and well-being behaviour. That’s not what this article is about. This is about the psychological factors and thought processes that trigger us to be active in the first place.
What makes it difficult to go for that walk; the swim or for the work-out in the gym and then to maintain the regime on a sustained basis? The good news is whether you exercise a little or a lot you may be more active than you think. The key could be what you think and feel it means to be active.
Activity Begins in the Mind
A little while ago I had occasion to spend time in the garden trimming back the privet hedge, taking care of the lawn and weeding out the borders. It was a Saturday. I had developed the habit of spending a few hours on Saturday afternoons at the gym, followed by a quick swim and sauna. The regime had been going well.
As the hours passed, I started thinking about calling it a day on the gardening and getting myself down to the gym. Then it hit me. What have I been doing all day if not having a great work-out? So there it is. Gardening can be great exercise. I happen to find gardening a hugely mindful activity that puts me fully in the moment and allows me to feel deeply connected with nature.
Gardening isn’t for everyone. However, there are probably a whole range of things that you like doing and yet may not regard as activity or exercise in the conventional sense. We often fail to recognise when we are being physically active and write it off as either just a bit of fun, or worse still a necessary chore. The thing is, our brain is not as wired to create a sense of wellbeing as much as it is to ensure the survival of self and species. It’s a genetic legacy from our hunter-gatherer days. Therefore, we need to continually make the effort to train our brain to respond to all the little positive moments that make up our day. There’s the spontaneous dancing to a catchy tune on the radio; doing housework; getting out to do the grocery shop. Seeing the fun in the day to day makes our brain more likely to trigger the release of those “happy hormones” (serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine) and, put simply, this makes us feel good.
Curiosity is Good for You and Yours
By taking the further step of seeing activity as a form of curiosity we introduce another incredible personal benefit. That is, we make the “active you” about an appetite for learning, creativity and personal growth. So now we can notice and acknowledge those other little things we do such as reading a magazine; complete a crossword puzzle or cook a meal. It’s important to acknowledge all the different types of activity we do, because all learning matters.
If you’re lucky enough to have found (or retrieved) the “active you”, that is to say the curiosity you were born with, there’s something you will feel compelled to do. That is to share it with a friend or loved one. Why? Because it’s an energy that cannot be contained by a single individual. We believe this energy, this compassion, resides in us all. Our experience over recent times has taught that in communities the world over there is an indomitable capacity for learning, sharing and growth.
“If you’re Lucky Enough to be Active
and Curious, Bring Your Buddies Along With You“
In times of passion and deep crisis, our curiosity is revealed as a “Ring of Confidence” as the whole world saw recently in London and Manchester, following a sequence of tragic events where countless lives were lost. In less tumultuous times, the same dynamic exists – people help people. In truth, helping each other before a crisis is more impactful in ways that cannot easily be calculated because (as a frustrated colleague once said to me) “what the hell can WE do to help? It’s just people living their lives and doing the best they can in terrible circumstances!” Hello?
We’ve classified the dynamics of this second scenario (help before the crisis) as a “Latent Confidence Network”. It’s what we all trust and acknowledge when we think “a friend in need, is a friend indeed”. We tend to trust familiar interactions with our friends and families (could say also people like us) more than we would an offer or advice from someone we don’t know so well. Better the devil you know. If you do want to learn more about our design principles for “Ring of Confidence” and “Latent Confidence Networks” watch our video here.
If you’re just “curious”, then you’ll be satisfied to know “activity” puts the mind in “growth mode” and helps us to understand it’s not much about how much we do, it’s about appreciating all that we do. Actively curious people are more likely to vote; engage with their communities and take interest in what’s going on around them. Actively curious people are, in fact, more likely to share what makes them feel good. So next time you’re thinking about the “active you” don’t ignore all the little fun things and the chores too.
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