The Science of Giving Up

Why is it so easy to give up?  This past weekend, I was feeling VERY strongly about taking care of myself, trying something new, and doing a series of 30 day challenges to improve my life.  My first 30 day challenge has been practicing yoga.  I am not flexible, my body hurts from a desk job and lugging around toddlers, and I could really use the quiet mindfulness that yoga is supposed to provide.  Last night, I wasn’t really “in the mood”, but I’m holding myself accountable to really giving this a shot, so I pushed through.  It’s hard for me, but my husband did it with me and our dogs were all over us and it was fun and we laughed and we felt better after.  So why did my brain go to such a dark place later while I was in bed?  My inner voice was saying things like, “Ugh, I just don’t feel like doing it,” and, “I already don’t feel like doing yoga again tomorrow.”  That’s crazy!  I stopped myself and thought, it’s a whole day away!  You don’t know how you’re going to feel tomorrow!  Maybe you won’t be so tired and cranky and you’ll WANT to do some stretching.  And really, if tonight was so hard, you can just pick an easier yoga video that will be more relaxing!
First, I don’t know if it’s the yoga, but I’m really glad I stopped the negative thoughts and gave myself a good talking-to, which I’m not normally great at doing.  And second, I really want to understand why it’s so easy for me and others to just quit.  We start diets and exercise routines and online classes and blogs – and then just give up on them.  Why?

So I spent some time researching today and found a few interesting things I wanted to share with you.  Apparently, there are two kinds of “quitters” – those who give up right away, and those who take longer to give up, but still quit eventually.  I believe that I fall into both categories, depending on the subject and what’s going on in my life at the moment.  With the yoga, I was definitely ready to quit last night, and it was only DAY FOUR!  And yet, there have been other times where I’ve stuck to an exercise routine for many months, I completed 4 years of college, I’ve had a veggie garden to maintain for 3 years now, etc.  Perhaps I’m more passionate about certain things and my life at the time is more conducive to completing my goals.

Scientists and psychologists talk about “ego depletion”, which basically means that people have a limited amount of self-control and willpower and it is reduced every time we exert that self control or willpower.  A perceived lack of time also has a big impact on our staying power.  Self improvement projects seem to get hit the hardest, but there is hope.  An improvement in day-to-day focus and an emphasis on the incentive for that project can really help.

Regarding focus, people who can sustain focus in day-to-day life are more likely to maintain perseverance and passion in their long-term goals.  I notice that the more balls I am juggling, the less focus I have, so it helps me when I simplify my life and responsibilities as much as possible.  Mindfulness training exercises, such as meditation, can really help, so I guess it’s really fortuitous that I chose yoga as my first 30 day challenge.

Also, your incentive matters.  People with real “grit” tend to have a purpose beyond “self”.  Grittiness is a personality trait involving sustained interest and effort toward long-term goals.  Grit is also a good predictor of success in career and education, independent of other traits, including intelligence.  Grit is really just interest, practice, purpose and hope.  That sounds simple, but I think an awareness is needed in order to succeed – so often, our lives are so filled with to-do-lists and just basic functioning that we are not aware of how every day matters and how many opportunities we have each day to focus on a long-term goal.

Ultimately, self-reflection is imperative.  I’m sure there are hundreds of reasons why, but I’ve noticed in my life that people seem to be a lot less self-reflective than they used to be, including myself.  Self-reflection is really hard – you have to find the quiet time to think, you have to be honest with yourself, and you have to dig deeper into your long-held beliefs and habits.  Not only is that hard, but it is also very scary.  I’m glad I took a moment last night to stop my negative thoughts, reflect on them, try to understand why I had them, and then create a game-plan for myself.  And that plan is to continue my yoga challenge because if I take care of myself, I will be a better mother, wife, family member and friend.  I love the people in my life so much, so if I can really visualize how this self-care will make me a better person for them, I think I can stick with it.  Although, being a better person for myself isn’t exactly a lame incentive either.  Namaste bitches!

New Year, New Kind of Resolution

I don’t make New Year resolutions, normally.  But this year I was inspired.  I was inspired by a TED talk clip and a Kardashian Instagram post.  Weird, right?

So, about a week ago I was watching a clip from a TED talk that was about “30 day challenges”.  I’ve done these before, as I’m sure most have, on Facebook groups, focusing on healthy habits, weightloss, etc.  However, this guy did all sorts of 30 day challenges, saying that while you can do anything for 30 days, and it will typically become a habit, trying all these new things for 30 days was even more exciting.  Time did not pass in a blur for him – he could remember most days with absolute clarity, truly feeling he had lived in the moment and had been focused and present in even the “mundane”.

A few days ago, Kloe Kardashian posted on Instagram some side-by-side photos of her weightloss, with her message being a focus of self-love and self-care.  She wrote that she was not so much worried about the way she used to look, but on the unhealthy way she was living her life.  She also went on to talk about making a decision to live, not just take a back seat on the ride.  She was tlaking about mindfulness.

As a mom, wife, homeowner, employee, etc, I am very rarely mindful.  I just need to get through the to-do list and the day with my sanity intact.  And is that any way to LIVE?

So I’ve decided to combine the TED talk and Kardashian inspirations into mini “New Year Resolutions”.  I am resolving to commit 30 days to a bunch of things that are important to me, because if I can focus and be mindful on one of those things for 30 days, even that will be a vast improvement to my self-care.

I am holdling myself accountable via Instagram, vowing to post my daily commitments, starting with 30 days of yoga (because most days, my whole damn body hurts from sitting at a desk, lugging toddlers around, etc.)  Then we’ll try 30 days of salads, writing in a journal, going for a walk, organizing a part of the house, and learning something new.  And like the guy on the TED talk, I hope it helps me connect, relax, and take care of my self, so that I can be good for the other people in my life who depend on me.  Wish me luck!

My postpartum body is a mess.

A few nights ago, while snuggling with my husband in bed, he asked me something strange.  As his hand traveled from my outer thigh to my hip, he questioned if I was wearing “padded shorts”.  Huh??  When I asked what he meant, he said, “Or like, Spanx or something?”  WTH??  Now, I’ve claimed my husband is a “charmer” and it’s not like I expect poetry from him after 13 years of togetherness, but to insinuate I was so chubby I was wearing padded shorts or Spanx to bed, well, that was a new low.  Needless to say, he received the cold shoulder for the remainder of the night, regardless of the amount of time he said, “I’m sorry!”

I know my postpartum body is a mess.  Perhaps men do not understand, but girls are programmed (usually before puberty) to be hyper-aware of their bodies and how they are different from the images seen on TV, magazines and the internet.  I had two babies in two years.  And even though I’m roughly at my pre-baby weight, the way my body carries that weight is completely different.

After my first child, I jumped head first into fitness and dropped 30lbs of “baby weight”, plus 10 more, in 3 short months (I hadn’t been that trim in YEARS).  Then I was pregnant again, probably because I was so damn hot my husband just couldn’t leave me alone – am I right?!  After my second child, the baby and water weight came of fairly easy, but everything was so stretched out, lumpy and messy, it’s been hard to feel like I’ve accomplished as much as I did after my first pregnancy.  My second child will be a year old soon, and I still feel awful in my own skin.  What do I do about it?  I jump on and off the healthy eating bandwagon.  I go to the gym 4 days one week, then can’t make it at all the next week, then work out for two days in a row in my basement the following week (equipped with treadmill, weights, and a TV and DVD player to do my P90X videos).  Consistency is my problem, but with a two-year-old and a baby, some days I’m surprised I have the energy to keep upright at 6pm.

I am important.  My health is important.  Fitness is important.  I want to have no trouble chasing my kids (and maybe someday, grandkids) around outside.  And as shallow as it is, I want my husband to still want me – not just because I’m his wife, the mother of his kids, his best friend, and because he loves me.  But because he truly wants me.  I know I truly want him.  And if I’m being completely honest, I’ve never done well with power imbalances like this.  I want to be as special to him as he is to me, in every way.  The feminist in me screams, “You ARE good enough!  You ARE beautiful!  He SHOULD love and want you as you are!”  And I’m sure those things are true.  But that’s not how women are conditioned.  It’s a hard yolk to break.

When I asked my husband the following day for some sort of an explanation (first mistake), then asked if he was thinking of my bike riding shorts, that were padded, etc, he really couldn’t come up with a reason for his questions.  And he is smart enough not to say it, but I told him that his statements were the equivalent of calling me fat.  That as a woman, I have enough hate towards my own body and that I didn’t need his help.  That since he rarely expresses himself verbally to tell me I’m attractive, if the one time he does open his mouth, it’s to say something negative, I am not going to react well.  I’m happy to report he seemed to truly understand, was absolutely apologetic, and perhaps has a better grasp on how such words make me feel.  And he did confirm he loves me as I am, which was nice.  But more importantly, we have a daughter to think of.  We need to set the tone for her as she grows so that she can have a healthy relationship with her body.

So ladies, there’s nothing wrong with your bodies, before or after kids.  Health is absolutely important, but no two bodies are the same.  The reality is, you will most likely get stretch marks at some point in your life.  After having a baby, your labia are HORRIFYING (who the hell designed the bathrooms at the hospital where I gave birth to my kids?  And why did they think it was smart to put a full length mirror opposite the toilet?!)  And everyone’s boobs are weird, one way or another, after kids (after my first, my boobs were adorable floppy pillows, which I loved – now they are big again and starting to sag, which I don’t love).  And if you have multiples, “Irish twins”, or just big babies that stretched you out, your tummy may not ever be the same – I haven’t lost total hope yet, but it’s not looking good.  But our bodies are strong.  We built miniature humans.  Or if we didn’t, we use our bodies for all sorts of wonderful things – running, yoga, carrying as many bags of groceries in one trip as humanly possible.  Our bodies deserve a little love and patience.  As do our partners, even when ask if we’re wearing padded shorts (*eye roll*).

Powered by

Up ↑