Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Happiness - Toastmaster Speech #9

Happiness and productivity. How can we achieve both every day?

Madam Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and guests. The answer is simple. Daily Exercise.

When you exercise, a protein called BDNF, Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor, is release to protect yourself and your brain from stress. This acts like a reset switch on the memory neurons. At the same time, another chemical, also to fight stress, called endorphin is released to the brain. These endorphins minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain and give you a feeling of euphoria. These two chemicals have the same addictive behavior as morphine, heroine and nicotine except that they're good for you. They lead to a sense of calm which makes you happy and productive.

When I think of exercise I think of serious exercise. I think of keeping my heart rate over 120 beats per minute for one to two hours. And I think that I need to do this around three times a week. This is very wrong. The mental benefits of exercise are:

1. Gained in the first 20 minutes of exercise and,
2. It needs to be done daily.

A study at Penn State University found that to be more productive and happier you must have worked out on that particular day. If you work out regularly you will be more productive and happier than someone who is sedentary but not as happy and productive as someone who has worked out on that day.

Convincing you that exercise if good for you both physically and mentally is an easy sell. What's not so easy is convincing you to go out and do it. If the first thing that you do when you wake up is to exercise for around 20 minutes and you do this every day then you can stop listening. I have nothing more but admiration for you.

To get us to exercise first thing in the morning we need three things:

1. Motivation
2. Ability
3. Trigger

There's an inverse relationship between motivation and ability. If motivation is high then your ability to do something can be low and you'll still achieve it. Conversely, if motivation is low then it has to be super easy to do something in order to achieve it. It's important to note that even if motivation is high that motivation may not always be there which means that it's important that you make doing exercise as easy as possible. Motivation may disappear once you've achieved your goal.

You also have to have a trigger in place that will change your behavior. I read about someone who puts their workout clothes on top of their alarm clock so they have to pick up those clothes before switching off the alarm. This is their trigger to do exercise.

For me my trigger is also my alarm clock and my exercise is to swim. I set my alarm clock an hour earlier at 6am and as soon as it goes off I pick up my swimming goggles and swim-watch, switch off the house alarm and get into the pool and start swimming.

If you take up my challenge to exercise first thing in the morning every day then I suggest that you think about starting small and then start even smaller. The most important thing you can do right now is not just the exercise but the formation of a life long habit. When I decided to swim in the morning I was thinking of doing half an hour each morning and after discovering this advice I cut it right back to 5 minutes. After a couple of days of that I started to ignore my countdown timer when it beeped at me to stop and kept on going because I knew I didn't have to. Since then I've been increasing it and I'm now swimming around half a mile in about twenty minutes each morning.

We all have challenges when it comes to executing. One of my challenges is that I sometimes have my kids rattling the pool gate asking to be let in while I'm swimming. They heard the door open and now know what I do in the mornings. When this happens it becomes a game and they take turns at hanging on my shoulders as I continue to swim and we all have fun.

I leave you with a challenge to do a tiny bit of exercise each morning. Start off small. One star jump or one push-up.

Finally, you need to reward yourself after each workout. By reward, I don't mean a doughnut. Walk up to the mirror and lift your fists up and tell yourself how awesome you are.

Remember that modifying your behavior to make this a lifelong habit is the most important goal. Feel free to email me if you need inspiration or if you want to brainstorm some ideas. Good luck!

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