It never fails. I dread my morning exercise routine and consider it a chore. By comparison to the regimen of a more athletic sort, my simple routine of a brief thirty minute walk to work is relatively light. Ironically, once I get started on my way I find that I actually enjoy the walk and certainly feel markedly more energized throughout my day. But true to form, the following morning I’m peering out the window again dreading my morning walk. What could be the mental reasoning behind this?
One theory is that I have mentally conditioned myself to believe that my morning walk is more strenuous than it is. I imagine my walk by the distance I travel and cannot help but to feel somewhat overwhelmed. It becomes a journey and one that would more easily be traversed in my vehicle. In 5 minutes I could be at my destination rather than dragging it out into a thirty minute ordeal. In reality, the most strenuous part is actually taking that first step out my doorway.
Perception plays a very real role in the choices we make. I dread my morning walk and may opt to drive instead. Or, I may choose to push on through and take my morning walk because I know it to be the healthy option. Once I am on my way, my perception of time is altered and the walk seems to be much shorter than it actually is. As I breathe in the fresh air getting more oxygen into my lungs my brain begins to release endorphins and invigorates me.
When I walk to work I’m happily distracted from my worries by the sights and sounds of nature around me. And I instantly put myself into a more positive frame of mind waving to neighbors as I pass by at a healthy clip. This positive attitude stays with me throughout my day and, again, makes my day go by faster. When I return home, I am relaxed and have a contented feeling of accomplishment.
When I drive to work I don’t have the feeling of dread except that of going to my 9-5 grind. However, my drive provides me no joy and my mood is unchanged from when I woke up. I typically remain somewhat sleepy until at least noon and feel emotionally drained. When I return home, I seem to be filled with nervous energy and it is often difficult to get to sleep. When I drive rather than walk to work my entire day is slightly more stressful and less enjoyable.
Thankfully, the more often I opt to walk rather than drive those positive memories of my enjoyable experience are reinforced and I dread it less. I will eventually come to prefer my morning walk to driving and not dread it at all. The one thing that becomes apparent is the irony that I have trained myself to dread the activities that bring me joy and crave those activities that do not.