When you embark on a weight loss journey, it's really important not to neglect your mind while you focus on changes to your body. After getting to grips with the fundamentals of mindset and weight loss, it's time to look at putting your learnings into action. Let's take a look.
Practise meditation and mindfulness techniques
Meditation and mindfulness techniques aren't just for monks and wise old men with long beards. They’re for everyone, and they can help you achieve your goals by giving you greater mental clarity and helping you feel more relaxed.
How to meditate:
- Set a timer to ring in 5 or 10 minutes.
- Sit somewhere quiet, close your eyes, and breathe.
- Focus on your breathing. This will bring your awareness to the present moment.
- If your mind starts to wander (which is perfectly normal), bring your attention back to your breath to regain awareness of the present moment.
- Gently open your eyes when your timer rings. You should feel significantly calmer.
Other mindfulness techniques you can use to help you “stay in the now” include:
- Mindful moving: when you’re out and about, notice the feeling of your body as it moves, the sensation of the surfaces and textures under your feet, the feeling of the sun on your skin.
- Body scanning: focus your attention on one part of your body, and then slowly “scan” your body by moving your attention to other body parts. Pay attention to how each body part feels as you do so.
Practise relaxation techniques
Help yourself to relax by making small, positive changes that make you feel more peaceful and at ease. This will help to reduce, and even eliminate, stress.
Stress is associated with weight gain because it can trigger emotional eating, as well as make you more likely to eat high-calorie foods.
To avoid this, you can add stress-relieving activities into your routine such as:
- Breathing techniques: Breathe into your stomach, then breathe out slowly through pursed lips. Repeat this 10 times, twice a day.
- Visualisation techniques: Imagine a relaxing space or environment (it can be real or imaginary) in as much detail as possible. Close your eyes, breathe in through your nose, and then out through your mouth. Picture yourself in the environment you’ve imagined while you breathe. Do this for 10-20 minutes while keeping your focus on your breath for optimal relaxation.
Try to do at least one of these techniques this week. If it helps you, you can do it again next week or try the other activity to see if it works better for you.
Connect with others
If you’ve ever taken a social media detox, you’ll know how much lighter and connected to reality it can make you feel. If you haven’t, give it a try this week. Take a break from social media (or at least, reduce your usage) and get together with friends, family, or other like-minded people instead.
Staying connected with others can help you feel more supported, which is helpful when trying to stick to an important goal like losing weight.
There are many things you can do to improve existing connections or even form new ones. You could:
- Practise acts of kindness: give a friend or stranger a compliment, or write someone a handwritten letter expressing your appreciation for them.
- Join a group of like-minded people: book clubs, walking groups, and groups dedicated solely to socialising are a few great ways to meet new people.
- Volunteer at a charity or shelter: working with others for a charitable cause tends to foster meaningful connections and quality bonds amongst those who work for the charity and the people benefitting from its services.
Engage in something you enjoy
Every now and then, it’s important to reward yourself by doing something you enjoy. Losing weight takes consistent effort, so in your downtime, it’s a good idea to do something fun that allows you to recharge.
By “engage in something you enjoy”, we mean choose an activity that’s fun and beneficial to you. Sure, we all like to indulge in naughty things - such as binging on food or drinking with friends at the pub - but these won’t help you achieve your weight loss goals any faster.
Instead, do something wholesome and enjoyable. Go for a walk in a nice park, paint, or go to a museum with a friend. If you have a particular hobby, immerse yourself in that. This will allow you to get into a “flow state” where you’re focused on the task in the present, freeing your mind of worries and preoccupations.
You can also get into a flow state by doing other activities, such as:
- Drawing (or any other artistic hobby)
- Taking part in a sport (or any other form of exercise)
- Playing an instrument (or learning to play an instrument)
Engaging in something you enjoy gives your mind a chance to reset so that you can continue your weight loss journey with clearer focus and drive. Give one of these flow state activities a go this week, or, if you’d prefer, pick one of your own favourite activities and do that instead.
Exercise for your mind and lower your stress levels
If you’re new to exercise, the idea of working out may seem more daunting than relaxing. But as you start to get into the groove of it, two things are very likely to happen.
First, you'll find that it becomes significantly easier and more enjoyable over time. Second, you’ll begin to realise that exercise is incredibly beneficial for reducing stress and helping you feel more positive overall.
Exercise releases endorphins (known as “feel-good” chemicals) in the brain and lowers levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol in the body. Studies also show it reduces anxiety and depression, and also improves self-esteem.
Always remember to pick a type of exercise you enjoy and is suitable for your current level of ability. Good exercise options for beginners include yoga, tai chi, pilates, swimming, and weightlifting.
Spend time in nature
If you want to lose weight and feel good in the process, here’s a hack:
Spend time in nature.
When it comes to weight loss, spending time in nature is a great way to work smarter, not harder. This is because getting out of the house burns calories, and being surrounded by nature can help to improve your mental health.
Studies have shown that exposure to nature is linked with increased happiness and wellbeing. It can also decrease mental distress. What’s more, the varying terrain you might encounter while traversing a natural landscape (e.g. slopes, hillocks, etc.) is likely to help you burn more calories than simply walking.
So, ditch the screens and return to nature. Find a green space and go for a walk in it. You’ll be stunned at how relaxing it can be, and your mind and body will thank you for it later.
Practise positive psychology
Sometimes, when you’re working on improving yourself, only you know how much effort you’ve put into reaching your goals. Therefore, it’s important to congratulate yourself whenever you reach a milestone, no matter how small it is.
This is a prime example of practising positive psychology.
Positive psychology involves highlighting your strengths instead of your weaknesses and celebrating the positive experiences you have rather than focusing on the negative ones.
For example, if you’re finding your weight loss exercise regime challenging, don’t beat yourself up for struggling a little. Instead, congratulate yourself for having the drive to get up and do it in the first place.
Other things that can help you develop and maintain positive psychology include:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- Keeping a gratitude journal (writing down a handful of things you are grateful for in a journal or diary every day)
Allocate daily 'me' time
It's easy to get wrapped up in work, social, and life commitments - but taking care of yourself should never take a backseat. To reduce stress levels and avoid emotional eating, you should allocate daily 'me' time. This is a few minutes out of each day where you do something that helps you to relax and unwind. You might go on a walk, read a book, or relax in the park. The key is that you shift your focus to taking care of yourself and incorporate this mindset into your daily life.