Whether you're searching Google for a "great five-minute ab workout" or downloading an app to plan your next 3K run, our thirst for a quick workout fix can be quenched within seconds. However, when it comes to a mental quickie -- a workout for your mind to jump-start the day -- I find the landscape either dismal or filled with lofty stuff that just isn't practical for the type-A New Yorker within me. So, I decided to come up with my own routine.
This five-minute routine is like doing a set of push-ups for your brain -- no props necessary except pen and paper, Blackberry or your writing utensil of choice. Results will be guaranteed if you're honest in your answers, diligent with your form and you practice in the right setting. Also, completing this mental workout in a taxi rushing to meet a friend doesn't count.
Find one day a week to do your mental exercises. I like Fridays -- it's the end of the work week, you're ready to relax and open to reflection.
Step 1: Write down one "heavy" food you ate this past week.
Why? Because foods can give and take away energy. You don't have to be a dietician or a nutritionist to figure out what one food or meal this week made you feel lethargic. It could even be how you ate the food -- with whom and where -- that made it feel "heavy." Be specific -- e.g., "Eating pizza at 2 a.m. when I was feeling anxious."
Step 2: Write down one "light" food you ate this past week.
Why? It's healthy to reflect on your actions and choices. It's easy to take for granted what makes us feel good and remember what makes us feel bad. Give yourself credit for all the positive things you do! So, what food or meal put an extra kick in your step this week? Be specific -- e.g., "Waking up to make a fruit smoothie in time before work."
Step 3: Write down one "heavy" word or saying you had on your mind this past week.
Why? Because we think about the food we digest into our bodies, and we should also think about the words we digest into our spirits. What word or saying did you engage in this week that stuck with you and has added "weight" to your spirit? Be specific -- e.g., "After a challenging interaction with a close friend, I went to sleep thinking, 'I am a failure.'"
Step 4: Write down one "light" word or saying you had on your mind this past week.
Why? Because words can literally "shape" our identity, so why not shape the mind that has the strength to tackle challenges and live happily? It's time to start building the army of words and sayings that make your spirit feel vibrant. This week, mine was "dream" after my mom told me, "Rupa, you're my American dream" when sharing with me why she loves America and why I should always be open to any opportunity.
Step 5: Write down one small thing that made you happy this past week.
Why? It's easy to forget how many moments strung together have made up our day, our week and our lives. The big ones stick out easily, but it's nice to figure out the tiny ones you can actually incorporate weekly that can make you have a big smile more regularly. It could be something as simple as being happy that you had frozen grapes in the house to pick on as a snack.
The last part of the workout is to repeat steps two, four and five next week. Make sure when you do the workout again next Friday (at the end of your work week) that all your answers are different. You need movement in your mind just like you need movement in your body to be healthy.
It's a simple mind workout, but just like a set of push-ups done weekly can change your body, a set of these mental push-ups done weekly can transform your thinking.
I've been discussing the weight of words and the impact words have in literally shaping your identity. This is one more effective tool to add your emotional diet arsenal for 2013.
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