1. Harness the Feel Better Effect
No matter what state of mind you start out in—exhausted, stressed, distracted—exercise tends to shift your mood toward having more energy and a more positive outlook. Psychologists call this “the feel better effect.” Take full of advantage of this effect by with a book that uplifts. Two to consider: Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott, and Welcoming the Unwelcome: Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World by Pema Chodron. Both acknowledge the anxieties of modern life, while offering advice on how to choose hope and courage.
Welcoming the Unwelcome
2. Embrace Your Full Self
Exercise can trigger body shame and self-judgment, but it doesn’t have to. Physical activity is an opportunity to sense your strength, power, and beauty. Let the endorphin rush of your workout remind you that you are amazing and worthy just as you are. Pair your workout with a book that explores societal judgment and self-acceptance, such as the memoir Unashamed: Musings of a Fat, Black Muslim by Leah Vernon, or one that teaches step-by-step how to offer yourself kindness, such as Heartwork: The Path of Self-Compassion by Radhule Weininger.
3. Let Movement Be a Metaphor
In every challenging workout, there comes a moment when your body or mind wants to quit. Getting through those moments makes movement empowering. You get to experience yourself as someone who persists, endures, and rises to the challenge. These are lessons that carry over into other areas of life. Lean into this aspect of your workout with a book that celebrates the value of physical effort, such as 26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life From My Marathon Career, by Meb Keflezighi and Scott Douglas, and The Pursuit of Endurance: Harnessing the Record-Breaking Power of Strength and Resilience by Jennifer Pharr Davis.
The Pursuit of Endurance
Jennifer Pharr Davis
4. Take Some Me-Time
Exercise can quiet the mind, giving you a break from your usual habits of thought. That makes your workout a perfect time for contemplation, whether you’re looking to find perspective on a problem or cultivate a mindset like gratitude. Consider starting your workout by dipping into a collection of daily reflections or poetry. Two new books to try: I Really Needed This Today by Hoda Kotb, which provides 365 days of thought-provoking quotes and reflections, and The Poetry Remedy: Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind, and Soul by William Sieghart, which offers poems specifically chosen to counter states of mind like anxiety, loneliness, and feeling stuck in life.
I Really Needed This Today
The Poetry Remedy
5. Get Motivated
Research shows that exercise makes you more confident that you can reach your personal goals, and more motivated to take active. There’s something about getting your heart rate up, breathing deeply, and being present in your body that makes you feel like you can take on the world. Why not combine exercise with a book that encourages you to dream big and go after what you want, such as Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo, or The School of Greatness: A Real-World Guide to Living Bigger, Loving Deeper, and Leaving A Legacy by Lewis Howes.
Everything Is Figureoutable
The School of Greatness
The Joy of Movement
And if you’re looking for a book to help you fall in love with your workout—or want to learn more about why exercise is the single most important thing you can do to enhance your mental and emotional well-being—read The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage by me!
Exercise isn’t just fantastic for your body. It also has powerful effects on your mood and your mindset. The endorphins, adrenaline, and other chemicals that flood your brain make you more optimistic and receptive to new ways of thinking. That makes your workout a perfect time to feed your mind with ideas and stories that inspire or challenge you.
Whether you prefer to turn pages, scroll on your screen, or listen to an audiobook, let this guide encourage you to take your workout to the next level.
Featured image: @rabertid12 via Twenty20