• Psychology of Movement
    Responding to a bad day
  • Responding to a bad day
  • If you are trying to live a healthier lifestyle - whether that involves moving more, eating healthier or creating habits that support your wellbeing - it’s inevitable that you are going to have days where things just don’t go as planned and you end up behaving in ways that are contradictory to your health and fitness goals. This is normal - there’s a saying that goes: “if it doesn’t challenge you it’s not new.” So any new patterns of behaviour you are trying to put in place will not be immediately and permanently successful!

    Just as importantly, these isolated incidents don’t actually disrupt your progress by themselves. In reality, having a day of indulgence or lack of activity is rarely going to have a significant impact on what you are trying to achieve. However, we often think they do. It is this narrative around the incident that triggers disruptions to our progress.

    A common example might be where we are trying to put in place a new exercise routine but end up missing a few sessions perhaps because of social events, illness or work. It’s then quite easy to conclude that this brief period of inconsistency has ruined our progress and taken us back to square one.

    So we want to share a simple process you can use to get back on track and avoid a “bad day” spiralling into something bigger.

    Step 1: Use those uncomfortable feelings

    “Falling off the bandwagon” often comes with uncomfortable feelings such as disappointment, panic, or frustration. These are normal reactions to what you perceive to be a block to your progress. So first you can acknowledge that the reason you are frustrated/disappointed/agitated is because you care about whatever it is that you feel has been disrupted (e.g. food choices, activity levels, healthy routines). Ask yourself: what does this tell me that I care about?

    Step 2: Take perspective

    Here we have three points for taking perspective:

    • Zoom out and put it into perspective. Ask yourself: in a week’s time, will I care about this?
    • Remember that the impact of this one event only extends as long as you allow it to go on. Once you are back on track, the impact does not continue.
    • In psychology there is a phenomenon called “mood-dependent memory”, which is the observation that we have better access to memories that match our current moods (e.g. negative memories when we are anxious). This means that it is easy when we have a “bad day” to remember and focus on other bad days, whilst struggling to remember the good ones. Recognise that this may be happening to you. Don’t let one blip overshadow the progress you’ve made, and remember it doesn’t cancel it out either.

    Step 3: Take action

    Finally, think about some very simple actions that can take you in the right direction. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking when the challenge feels big that the solution needs to be equally big. However it doesn’t. Often you just need to take some small steps that shift momentum back towards the goals you are trying to achieve. Think about each decision as a fork in the road. Each action you take can either take you towards or away from the overall direction you want to go.

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