And, once again, I'm writing about mindfulness. Because mindfulness helps you feel happier. It makes you get better at everything. And can even make you eat less. It can help you control menstruation, digestion, immune responses, and a whole host of other things.
And, in 5 Ways to THINK Yourself Skinny: The Harvard Study That'll Shock You, I show that it can even help you lose weight – just by thinking! You don’t have to change anything else about your behavior. Here’s how:
In 2010, Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer had a crazy idea: that exercise and health outcomes could be affected by your mindset. To test it, she divided 84 female room attendants (hotel maids) from seven different hotels into one of two groups.
- Changing linens for 15 minutes burns 40 calories
- Vacuuming for 15 minutes burns 50 calories
- Cleaning bathrooms for 15 minutes burns 60 calories
And, therefore, these women were clearly meeting – even exceeding! – the Surgeon General’s recommendations.
There was no behavior change in either group. But! Four weeks after the intervention, the women in the informed group perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before. AND! Their weight, body fat percentage, BMI, WHR and BP all decreased.
So what does this mean for you? A couple of things.
1. That the benefits of exercise are partly due to the placebo effect -- and that's okay! I mean, if your health and fitness are improving, who cares if it's because of the actual exercise you did, or the way you thought about said exercise?
2. There is a very real connection between your mind and your body. Mindfulness can mediate the connection between exercise and health -- and you could be getting more out of the activities and exercises you're already doing if you thought more carefully about what you're doing.
So... time for an action plan? Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
1. Put down your phone. It makes you less mindful, less cool, less likely to make new friends, and more likely to get into a horrible accident (did you know that thousands of people visited the ER last year for "texting-while-walking" incidents?).
2. Focus on your posture! I'm not going to be one of those dicks who tries to tell you how to stand. I'm just saying, Think about it. As I realized recently during a tai chi class I attended (I probably won't be going back -- tai chi kind of violates my principle of practicing things like you're going to do them), good posture is hard work! Think about your posture. Think about all those tiny muscles that keep your back straight. Think about how you’re keeping your ears over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips, and (if you’re standing) your hips over your knees.
3. Focus on your walking. Think about squeezing your glutes as you walk – what does it feel like? Pay attention to the grade – when you walk uphill, you work your glutes and calves extra hard. But going downhill is a challenge, too! In order to cushion your knees from impact and keep your speed under control, you must activate your hamstrings with each step. (If you tend to plop and make a lot of noise when you walk downhill, you could probably work on that hamstring activation -- and try to absorb some of the impact with your leading quad. Your knees will thank you.)
Or just join the Ministry of Silly Walks. As long as you're being mindful.
3b. If you're having trouble staying mindful about walking, consider investing in some wearable technology. I bought a Striiv Play recently, and it’s… okay. I might recommend going with a Fitbit orJawbone, because they give you more and better metrics, such as how you’re sleeping, your heart rate, etc.
4. Next time you do any kind of housework, think about the awesome women inLanger’s famous study. (Also, check out her book, which talks about how to slow and/or reverse aging.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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