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Physical Activity Helps Us Eliminate Self-Defeating Attitudes

Some of my best ideas and most profound attitude adjustments come while I’m cycling or jogging.  While jogging, I can actually run the gamut from thinking negatively about a problem, to being open to new possibilities, to actually coming up with a positive solution to my concerns — all during a few miles of physical exertion.  

Perhaps you’ve had the same experience. Brisk walking, running, cycling, hiking — any kind of physical exercise that’s challenging for you — can help you see your problems with new eyes and, in fact, alter your attitude.  Let me give you an example.

As I was running the other day, I began thinking about challenges at the office. I love my work, and the rewards far outdistance the difficulties. But as with any business, not all aspects of it are pleasant. As I started my run, I was pretty down on a few individuals, and on myself for my reaction to some of the things they had said.

The first couple of miles, I heaped one negative thought on another. My usually buoyant spirit was fast dissipating under the weight of my wallowing in negative thinking. Here I was, a counselor committed to helping people work through the pain of their own emotional exhaustion, and I was demonstrating the same behavior as those I’m committed to helping.  

On the spot, I made the decision to change my attitude. I picked up my pace and got my heart rate up. Then I said a prayer, asking God to forgive me for indulging in an attitude of despair and complaint. I started to count my blessings — thanking God for my wonderful wife, who has been my partner for so many years. I thanked the Father for the beautiful Northwest where I’m privileged to live.  I started reciting the names of my friends who care about me and who had touched my life. I prayed for each of them, one by one, asking God to give them strength and courage and that they might always have the inner resolve to be the persons our heavenly Father designed them to be.  

By now I was cruising. I scarcely remember the scenery, the rocks on the road, the traffic, or anything else on my run.  Everything had suddenly come together for me — the physical, emotional, and spiritual — and it started by simply getting some exercise for my body.  

When I came home, I felt taller and stronger inside and out.  Gone were my earlier complaints — still to be dealt with but now with a different attitude — and in their place was a spirit of gratitude.  

We dare not underestimate the importance of physical activity in helping us to eliminate self-defeating attitudes.  Just getting up, getting out, and moving can be helpful.

There are now scores of studies that confirm that exercise can be a direct antidote to stress.  Whether a workout activates stress-destroying endorphins or simply provides for a relaxing pause in the action, we know something good happens.  

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 37 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.