February 11, 2010

Motivations, Affirmations and Mantras - Oh My!

"Smile. It's all good. Trust me."
Photo: Photos8.com

We’re starting to get into that tricky time of our fitness journey where maybe we’ve had some early successes but now things are slowing down and we’re becoming a little bit anxious as to whether we can actually really pull this thing off. Nothing succeeds like success but where’s there a pithy saying about spinning, crashing and burning when you need one? Not that any of us are doing that but if you’re starting to use phrases like “treading water”, “getting back on the wagon”, “keeping the porch lights on for Jimmy Hoffa” – well then, you might need a little pick-me-up.

The great - and horrible - thing about motivation is that it is entirely up to us. It’s easy to stay motivated when things are going well but less so when all your hard work stops yielding results. Staying in a positive frame of mind is essential to reaching your fitness goals and so anything that keeps us upbeat is a good thing.

I don’t get to say this very often but lately I’ve picked up a few good habits. Whether it’s from being a member of Cranky Fitness or just not getting enough fiber in my diet, I tend to get crabbier than your average bear; especially in winter. To try to accentuate the positive, I have been keeping a gratitude journal that I write at least three things in every night. I’ll grant you that some nights I do have some trouble getting all three in. We all have those kinds of days. But then it helps me to look over past entries for an immediate boost, reminding myself that bad times don’t last forever – it just seems that way sometimes.

I’ve also picked up a daily affirmations book that I like to use: The Daily Book of Positive Quotations by Linda Picone. It helps me maintain some perspective in my otherwise self-absorbed existence. There is a huge variety of books in this genre and if you can’t decide on one; pick two. Couldn’t hurt.

Increasing the laughs has been something I’ve been doing more of lately, too. Laughter is a natural and immediate mood booster. There’s nothing like a good laugh to clear the decks of any worries or concerns that have been dogging us lately – if only for a little while. Some great current TV comedies are “The Office” and “30 Rock”. “I Love Lucy”, “Cheers”, “Frasier”, “Arrested Development” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” are classics that are always worth another look. I also found this hilarious article called “The Chuck Norris Guide to Self-Motivation” that you might enjoy. And everyone’s favorite, Jack Sh*t, is truly snort-worthy.

The other, most portable habit I’ve picked up has been to develop a mantra – a short phrase I say to myself to stay focused and lift my spirits. There are even some articles written about how to develop a mantra or affirmation if you’re so inclined with tips such as keeping it positive (duh) or representing the present versus the future (Really? I kind of like both). I have my own homegrown version that goes, “Every Day”: I need to do my exercise and mind my eating “every day”. I don’t focus on how big the overall task is - that's too scary. Instead, I’ve cut it up into one manageable thought that won’t overwhelm me. Stringing enough good days together starts to become a very good habit.

What do you all do to keep your head in the game? Do you have a mantra that helps you stay on track? And if so, what is it?


  1. Great post, Gigi. I really enjoyed this!

  2. Yep you have entirely summed up my life at the end.
    Stringing together (or the mere attempt anyway) a bunch of good days to create the life I want to live.

    My mantra (for my runs, for job interviews, for everything these days) is a simple: I CAN DO THIS I CAN DO THIS.

    great post.

  3. My mantra is simply - I WILL do it this time. So many well intended diets just petered out and got lost along the way. But this time I am ready to not only take it off, but to keep it off as well. Trying on my size 8's and knowing I will soon be wearing them also helps.

  4. My Mantra: Git Hir Dun!


  5. I'm still working on this stuff. My dad gave me a poem/fridge magnet thing one christmas. I think the title is believe in yourself (because I believe in you). He's not one for sentaments like that, so it was really surprising and special. I have it hooked to my file cabinete in my office at school. I tell myself that all the time. I need to believe I can do this..because I can if I don't get in the way :)

  6. I look at my fat pictures... those usually get me right back into the game.

    And if that doesn't work, I look at my fat picture, next to my skinny picture (which is slimmer then I am now) and then look at a current picture of myself.

    And if all that fails (which usually never happens) I rip my clothes off, and stand in front of my bathroom mirror - that's something that never fails!

    Nothing reignites my motivation the way pictures do.

  7. Wow Gigi! Oh My is right. I have the same quote book on my end table! My mantra is I LIVE! Affirmations and Mantras are what has kept me going through a long period now of a plateau for months. It is hard to keep the motivation going when it seems nothing is working. But being mentally able to cope with "life" when it decides to derail you a bit puts the determination in perspective and you can still keep up the small things when you can't do the big things!

  8. "Keeping the porch lights on for Jimmy Hoffa"! LMAO!

    I am learning about positive self-talk and it really works.

    I usually make up a mantra in the moment - something like "Keep going, it gets easier".

  9. I don't have a mantra but maybe it's time I did. Positive thinking and self affirmation has been elusive for me but something I've been working on lately. Your post is timely for me. Thank you for that.

  10. I'm guessing "40 Pounds By February or Bust!" is a lousy mantra.

    Seriously, I could definitely clean up the way I talk to myself. I'm going to think about what you said about mantras and positive thinking and try to come up with something better than "get off the chair, fata**!"

  11. My mantra: You're good enough! Of course, what really gets me going when it comes to exercise is knowing it will help my injured knees heal.

  12. I have a few positive self-talk phrases, but they are (a) too sappy for a cranky crab to share publicly and (b) don't actually seem to work all that well as I don't tend to take them all that seriously.

    Would love to figure out how you guys repeat these phrases and BELIEVE. I need to have a much more extended conversation with myself to get my own attention and cooperation. I can do it, but I really need to take some time out to change a negative attitude. I keep trying mantras and catch phrases, but alas, practice is not making for perfect.

  13. I once kept a gratitude journal about four years ago. Hmmm...

    One mantra: keepittogether keepittogether

    I also like *make yourself move yourself,* a magnet that I got in an Alli box that they were pimping after a marathon.

  14. Thanks for the post. I've really needed some motivation and a good "Kick in the pants." :-)

  15. I kept a gratitude journal for some time, starting during a very dark time in my life. It was a great way to look to the future and knowing life will get better. I seem to let it go once I'm in a happy place again.

    I'm afraid I've never been a mantra gal. I never seem able to convince myself. And doing Billy Blanks tae bo didn't help. "Where I am today, is where my mind and will put me, where I am tomorrow is where my my mind will put me." It's a great thought, but the way they do it? It makes me giggle. : )

  16. My mantra has become, "Be better than before." It didn't start with weight loss but house cleaning. I used to be an annoying perfectionist and wouldn't do the task unless I knew I had the time to do it perfectly. When the kids and the pets came, I'd go insane. Now, I don't look for perfection just as long as it looks better than before.

    I can't loose weight perfectly nor exercise perfectly or eat perfectly. That's okay as long as I continue to be better (overall) than before.

  17. Motivation follows action. (It really does, try it and see.)

    First time, every time. (When I am trying to establish a habit.)

    If it is worth doing, it is worth doing. It is even worth doing wrong. (When I am bogged down by perfectionism.)

  18. I've actually got four that I'm trying out for the moment.

    1. Take care of yourself
    2. Be kind to yourself
    3. Work before play (because I stuggle with procrastination -- note that this may emphasize work, but it assumes that there will be play later :+)
    4. Give yourself credit

    Any time I put a "should" or "will" or "much" in front of something, I mentally rebel. These may be general, but I'm finding them a whole lot easier to live with and apply to the things I'm working on for myself.

  19. I stole my mantra from Nike - I Just Do It. No questions, no excuses...just do it.

  20. Shelley hit right on the head. Nike's mantra (to me) is the single greatest mantra, affirmation and motivation of ALL time. What makes it such is that it's all about less talk and Taking ACTION!

    Rahim Samuel
    Publisher, Wellnessbymanymeans.com

  21. If you liked The Daily Book of Positive Quotations, check out The Positive Portions Food and Fitness Journal. It's by the same publisher, and pairs affirmations pages with journaling pages, where you can write down your dietary intake and exercise for each day.

  22. I let myself slack off for a bit. That motivates me to kick my butt in gear again. So I guess my mantra is "bring on the wine!"

    (I'm only sort of kidding ;)).

  23. Kickin' a** and takin' names.

  24. Affirmations are a good start, but sometimes it feels like we are just lying. I like to connect with the result I am looking for, rather than just saying it, I think of what I want to be and ask myself, "How would it feel to be this?" It's interesting, you do get a feeling of it, and then its easier to stay motivated.

  25. I'm also getting into the whole laughter therapy. Really helps relieve stress and release all that bad energy. Oh, and I can't forget water. Water never fails to make me feel better. When I have an off day, I just drown myself in lots of cool, clean water. After a couple of liters, I feel better and more motivated to pick up from where I left off.

  26. Great post as well. I find I have ebbs and flows in the motivation department.

    My mantra is look how far I have come, man, let's see how much farther I can go.

    Steph H

  27. I just discovered this cool site through my school and even posted a blog about it on my own blog. I thought you might enjoy it as well.


    Have a wonderful Friday!!

  28. pain is weakness leaving the body


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