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Why your brain is the body part you need to strengthen this new year

Updated: Jan 1, 2022

Why do we choose to embark on health and wellness challenges at the start of the new year? Perhaps it’s because it coincidentally bookends the end of the often-glutinous holiday season. Or perhaps because the first few months of the year tend to have fewer social engagements that can create obstacles for adhering to fitness plans. We often like to start new projects on Mondays because it's a “fresh start”, yet New Year’s Day rarely falls on a Monday and we view that as new beginning. This just highlights the influence that our mindset has over new year’s resolutions.

To achieve success, our new habits should be sustainable. That means you need to know and understand how to navigate social engagements and overcome obstacles that get in the way. Going on a three month focused journey to your goals will not create lasting change. We often set ambiguous goals “eat better, lose weight, workout more” which don’t allow us to track our progress and create motivation. By mastering your mind and figuring out WHY and HOW you can have a grasp on what makes you tick and create long lasting success.

Mind- body, mind-gut connection

The triad of the mind-body and the mind-gut connection all work together. Serotonin is a feel-good hormone that stabilizes mood and increases feelings of wellness and happiness. 90% of serotonin lives in the gut! Having a healthy gut can therefore contribute to a happy and healthy brain and vice versa. Forming a healthy diet that benefits your individual microbiome creates a positive environment to enhance the mind-gut connection.

When we feel happy and well, we are more likely to stick to our goals and make positive decisions. By using mindfulness practices such as meditation, journaling, or cognitive therapy we can develop skillsets that create an inner peace to allow our brains to function at their best.

How often do you hear of people suffering from back pain during periods of high stress? Or severe migraines when dealing with high anxiety? Instead of debilitating mind-body connections we can create positive relationships where your body is strong and powerful because you are energized and peaceful. Developing communication between the mind and body enhances neuromuscular connections during movement. The same workout can be approached twice with different mindsets and thus different results. By having a sharp, present brain that is connected to your muscular system you enhance the activation of the exercise and increase performance. Ensuring you have adequate form and have a balanced muscular system will benefit this mind body connection.

How your brain influences fitness goals

Ask any workout fanatic and they will tell you it’s part of their lifestyle no different than brushing your teeth. They feel better, perform better and are the best versions of themselves with they engage in movement. People typically look to get into a fitness routine for three reasons: injury prevention/health, performance, or body image. In my initial assessments I start by asking the percentages of each motivation factor to the journey. The brain is the control center of our actions and desires. By understanding the psychology behind what we and do and why, you can create a custom plan that creates positive decision making.

For example, if you say you want to “lose weight” by understanding your motivating factor you can make a plan that exposes a pathway towards the desired result. It might be you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, they have an upcoming high school reunion or just that your pants are too tight! In the scenario of tight pants using waist circumference as a measurement will provide a motivating factor towards success. If the goal is towards improving health using blood markers can provide better insight

Master your mind

Once you have established the why behind your goals you can figure out how you can get there. First look at what it is you love doing. The more we do the things we love the happier we are and the more likely we are to repeat them. Greater happiness and sense of well-being increases health which is vital whatever your motivation. Don't love anything fitness related? Find something within your chosen hobby that would benefit from increased physical ability. For example, if you love to cook, set a goal to be able to put the slow cooker on the top shelf with ease. If you love to travel, associate increased strength with a greater ability to zip through the airport and put your luggage in the overhead bins.

Next develop objective, target, and outcome goals. Objective goals are those that you have complete control over and only require adherence. Target goals are those that should happen if you complete the objective goals and can be used as benchmarks to increase motivation. Outcome goals are the desired response, this is the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning and focused on tasks when the going gets tough. For example, if your goal is to workout more so you can increase self-confidence you may choose a goal of running a 5K.

Objective: Run for a minimum of 5 minutes a day

Target: Run one mile with stopping at a 10-minute pace by X date

Outcome: Complete a 5K

By strengthening our brain we can increase the mind-body and mind-gut connections that enable us to adhere to health and wellness plans. Once we understand the why behind what we want we can create a greater connection to what we need to do and how to create accountability that leads to long term success. After all its easier to get up at 5AM for a run when you can associate that is a stepping stone on your path to enhancing self-confidence and happiness.

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