happiness and positive psychology

Fitness Goals & Mental Imagery Reflection

My week of exercising, sticking to my meal plan and using mental imagery to motivate myself is now over.  I mentioned before that I did this as an activity for one of my uni classes, so here is the reflection I wrote afterwards.


For successful goal setting, Grant and Leigh (2011) suggest pursuing goals that align with your values as this increases likelihood of success.  One of my key values is self-improvement; I believe in continuously finding opportunities to improve, and working towards self-actualisation.  This is why I started to exercise two years ago – to improve emotional and physical wellbeing.  Holmes and Mathews (2010) contend that mental imagery (MI) is particularly effective at activating brain regions associated with emotion, so I was really excited to try it.

What it was like to practice imagining – how easy was it to control your images? How clear/vivid were your images? Did it get any easier/better with practice? What obstacles did you become more aware of? What new options did you discover?

My goal is to increase muscle definition, and reduce another 2-3 kg in the next 3 months.  However, I’m currently experiencing a plateau, which I’m hoping can be aided with MI.

Since returning from overseas in June, I’ve only been going about 3-4 times per week, and I can’t seem to find the motivation to resume 5-6 workouts weekly. I also haven’t been planning my meals carefully, so I haven’t felt in control.

I envisioned how I would like to look and feel by January.  I used MI techniques from this week’s audio file, visualisation from the Real Simple website (Rodriguez, n.d.), and tips from an article (Roffey, 2013) from my gym (which coincidently referenced Lydia). I created a list of daily exercise and food goals, and from this, a clear plan (see attachment in last post).

I started MI in the mornings, but realised quickly I was often rushed and distracted, so I changed to later at night and easily incorporated it into my evening routine.  My images were vivid and clear, but an obstacle was if I was falling asleep other images would also intrude e.g. a day at work, getting into honours, etc.  It wasn’t bad necessarily, because the theme remained the same – full of optimism and hope, however it detracted from my fitness objectives.  By practicing earlier at night, I was able to stay better focused on my goals.  I found a great guide designed for swimmers, that I used before going to bed (EAC Gators, n.d.).

How this practice affected your hope and optimism (and ultimately PWB)? Or for that matter, self–‐ confidence (aka self–‐efficacy)? You might like to discuss this relative to your score on the Optimism Test (online at http://www.authentichappiness.org)

The test indicated that when it comes to bad events, both in terms of permanence and pervasiveness, I’m optimistic.  I attribute bad things based on the situation.  With good events, I do the same – I believe they can be situational and isolated instances, overall, this gave a slightly hopeless result.  If optimism and pessimism were a spectrum, I believe I’m in the middle, a realist.  I believe successes are due to hard work – nothing to do with me being smart or dumb, but that I applied myself well in that given situation.

How successful were you following through on your (daily) goal? What was that like?

With my weekly plan, plus visualisation, I felt more optimistic about achieving success.  I didn’t achieve 100%, but I was pleased with the outcome.  6 out of 7 days, I achieved my food plan, and I did 5 out of 6 planned workouts.  I slipped when there were logistical issues (i.e. getting timing wrong), but I’ve made another plan for next week, and included more flexibility.

What else did you learn from the process?

It’s tempting to use one failure as an excuse to give up entirely, but I have to cut myself some slack and use these opportunities to reassess the plan, and find ways to reduce the risk of failure.

References

EAC Gators. (n.d). Mental Imagery.  Retrieved from http://www.eacgators.com/imagery.pdf

Grant, A. M. & Leigh, A. (2011). 8 Steps To Happiness: An Everyday Handbook. Melbourne, VIC: Victory Books.

Holmes, E. A. & Mathews, A. (2010). Mental imagery in emotion and emotional disorders. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(1), 349-362. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2010.01.001

Rodriguez, T. (n.d.). 3 Easy Visualization Techniques. Real Simple. Retrieved from http://www.realsimple.com/health/mind-mood/emotional-health/visualization-techniques

Roffey, C. (2013). Train your brain with mental imagery. Fernwood Fitness. Retrieved from http://www.fernwoodfitness.com.au/weight-loss—exercise/well-being/train-your-brain-with-mental-imagery/

Advertisements

Mental Imagery and Goal Setting

Ah, another week, another random task I have to do for my Happiness & Positive Psychology class.  I’m really enjoying it – I have this natural instinct to always want to try something new and this class is meeting that need.

This week the focus is on hope, optimism and mental imagery.

I’ll do a proper reflection later on, but basically I’ve set myself daily food and exercise goals for the week and I’m going to be using mental imagery to imagine success (both short term and long term).

The goal for the week is as follows.  It’s not super healthy, but if I can stick to it, then I’ll be happy.  My goal is baby steps – if I can keep doing something like this for more than a few weeks, then I might start thinking of proper fitness meal prep.

Wish me luck. 🙂

Exercise and Food Plan

Gratitude #5

Woo! Last day of writing a gratitude list for uni!

Firstly, a reflection.  Writing a list every day has been a bit annoying and time consuming, but I think it’s really made this week more enjoyable.  This grey, wet weather has been getting me down, and I’ve been struggling with juggling uni, work and gym.  On top of that, Pete’s having a stressful time at work, so it would’ve been really easy to be unhappy, irritable or argumentative this week.

Instead, I’ve found myself exercising greater appreciation of the small things and by talking about it and sharing it with others, I feel like I’ve been able to spread the happiness.

Alongside gratitude, we also did some readings on savouring.  One reading in particular stood out, the author was a professor and he said he was going to be doing a speech to recognise some undergrad psych students for their academic achievements.  He told them to really savour the moment, to listen to every word in his speech, to congratulate themselves and allow a moment of self-pride and to share this moment with others if they could, either by taking family members along, by calling them afterwards or even writing a letter about the experience.

This really struck a chord with me, because I’m very much aware of the tall-poppy syndrome and know that it’s easier to not share success with others.  Because of this, I spent a moment reflecting on the fact that I might be graduating this year, and to fully appreciate the work that’s gone in to get this far.

While I was doing my reading, I got some great news from my boss.  Something I’ve been working on for the last 10 months has come to fruition, and will be resulting in success and recognition for my whole team.  My immediate response was to think, “I can do better!” and I had to stop and force myself to really savour the moment and congratulate myself.  And you know what…it feels really good!

Okay, now onto the list.

Gratitude List – Saturday 29/08/2015

I’m firstly grateful for my health and my body.  I know that I’m incredibly lucky to have my physical and mental health, and it serves me well every moment of every day.  I started the day with my usual Saturday morning gym session, and I noticed that I’m able to do tricep pushups really well – which is something I really struggled with in the beginning.  I felt very grateful to be whole, healthy and strong.

I’m grateful for the time Pete spends with me, and how much he cares about my interests.  I know some people tend to zone out when their partners talk about work or study, things that are considered boring.  But Pete always listens.  On Saturday morning I relayed to him what I’d learnt about depression – the subgroups, symptoms, comorbid factors, etc.  He listened to every word, added more information and asked questions.  It’s because of this supportive attitude that encourages me to do well in my studies.

I had a call from my dad, and again, I was grateful for his health.  Can’t wait to catch up with him in person sometime soon.

I know I’ve mentioned this already as well, but I’m so grateful for friendships.  Although I didn’t spend any time with friends yesterday (spent the vast majority of the day studying), I was reminded of them on a few lovely occasions.  Firstly, I put on my favourite pair of boots to go out to brunch, and the sole of one felt slippery.  I looked underneath, and found a picture of Jenny’s face, which immediately brought a smile to my face.

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js

For context – when Pete and I went to Korea, Jenny and her partner (also Peter) house-sat for us.  When they left, their parting gift was pictures of Jenny’s face in all sorts of random locations and we’ve been finding them ever since.  This one was great because it took 5 weeks to be found.  It’s like a treasure hunt in my own house.

Later in the day, I got a call from another friend.  One that I haven’t seen in a few months, and I’ve been missing her a lot.  We had a good chat and planned a catch up for tomorrow.

Lastly, I’m grateful for the mid semester break.  I really hope I can get on top of my readings in the next week, this semester is proving to be a lot tougher than I expected.  A week without classes is exactly what I need.

Gratitude #4

This week has been tough, so this gratitude list thing is starting to get difficult.  One more day to go!

Gratitude list for Fri 28/08/2015

  1. Being able to open the jam jar – I’m going to take small wins today, and seeing as there are about 3 jars in the fridge that I couldn’t open, I was pretty happy to open this last one.  I know the usual tricks – boiling water over the seal, or jamming a knife in underneath, but still – opening it with my own two hands is the most satisfying.
  2. Grey days – I’m definitely dying for summer to come back, I’m not at all a winter person, however I spent the day at home studying and it was really nice to look out at the grey day through the giant window in the lounge room.  The wind was sweeping the tree branches around, and the general feeling was quite cozy indoors.
  3. When grey days turn sunny – there was some sunshine in the afternoon that cheered me up considerably.  And the mornings are starting to lighten earlier and earlier, so I know the sunshine is just around the corner.
  4. My gym – I don’t know what I’d do without my gym.  It is the source of so happiness for me.  In the gym I find challenge and triumph.  Peace and quiet, plus loud music and instructors yelling.  I go through ups and downs, and right now I’m in a bit of a down – still struggling to get the routine I had pre-Korea, but every day I go is a day I spend full of endorphins and satisfaction.
  5. John Oliver – seeing John Oliver was great, and I got a really pleasant surprise with his opener – Celia Pacquola, she was fantastic.  Laughter is good for the health, and doing something fun with Pete after a difficult week was just what we needed.
  6. My work’s whatsapp chat (funny memes) – I’m so lucky to work with such a funny, close knit group.  Even on the days I’m not around, I get to see their hilarity in the group chat on my phone, and it always makes me happy.

Gratitude #3

Gratitude List Thu 27/08/2015

A full day at work means that a lot of these will be work related.

  1. Autonomy in the workplace – I’m working on a kind of difficult project at the moment, and came across a stumbling block.  I felt disheartened for a brief moment, but I have the time and autonomy at work to go away, think about it, come up with a solution and share it with colleagues.  While I don’t think I have the creativity to come up with new ideas on the spot, I appreciate the fact that my job suits my working style.
  2. My work shares the same values as me – I went to a 1.5 hour seminar on mental health run in the workplace by Beyond Blue.  The psychologist who ran it was a great public speaker, and integrated anecdotal stories as well as evidence and facts from the diagnostic statistical manual (DSM).  I was thankful that my work takes mental health seriously and that they disseminate credible knowledge.
  3. Good coffee baristas – The guys at the coffee shop nearby not only make great coffee, but they know how to pronounce and spell my name.  Small things, but very much appreciated.  After having so much trouble getting decent coffee in Korea, I’m still appreciating the coffee culture in Melbourne.
  4. My favourite band are going to play one last time together, although they stopped/retired a few years ago.  It doesn’t sound like much, but music is incredibly important in my life, and I’ve liked this particular band since I was 11 years old.  I can’t wait to see them one more time.
  5. Being dry when it is raining – lunch time was a bit miserable yesterday, walking around and getting half soaked in the rain.  So when it came to home time, I was dreading the walk across the city to Pete’s car.  As I was leaving the building, he called and said he was done with work and would be picking me up from my office.  The timing was perfect, and I’m thankful for the warm, dry drive home with great company.
  6. Amelia – I’m so grateful to have Mila in my life and I wish I could see her more.  My best friend’s daughter – 2 years old, about 2-3′ tall, is very cute, and adores Pete.  Yesterday he got a call from Mila, so when I heard about it later that day I got jealous and had to call her on the way home.  We didn’t talk much, but just hearing that voice was enough to make me happy.

Gratitude #2

Gratitude for Wed 27th August

1. My flexible workplace, where they work around whatever hours I need (I stayed at home and studied yesterday)

2. The privilege of going to uni – it’s not something I could afford when I was younger, and I know there must be many people in the same position

3. 3rd year content – the subjects I’m studying are finally very practical and I can see the long term benefits of studying them

4. Money – I’m very fortunate to live comfortably, and buy whatever we need without stressing about our budget. I try to share this by donating my time, money and effort wherever possible.

5. Our dishwasher – I still remember the time I lived alone without a dishwasher. Washing all the dishes by hand was a tedious waste of time.

6. My friends – even when I don’t see them often, I get messages and pictures sent throughout the day and they always make me happy.

7. Following on from number 6, I’m grateful for my phone and social media/chat apps – I love staying in touch with the people I care about.

8. My cat – it’s amazing how much happiness and well-being pets can bring. Before Pete came along, Missy was my only company at home for a long time. I’m grateful for her furry little face.

9. The ability to cook, access to my kitchen – for 5 weeks in Korea I didn’t have access to a kitchen, so now I’m very appreciative of the ability to cook. Last night I randomly decided to make crispy chicken tenders with a side salad and it was entirely within my control

10. Chocolate – I’ll be grateful for chocolate every day of the week 🙂