MINDSET – Create a healthy mindset, manage stress and prioritize sleep

If you missed my introduction to this series, I laid down the foundation of why diet and exercise alone will NOT get you the results you’re after.

You need to train your mind along with your body and diet. So, to make sure you’re in the right place.

If you’re over 35 and you’re ready to say a big FU to aging and the Dad Bod, you’re in the right spot.

If you want to look at yourself in the mirror and say “damn, I feel and look better than I have in a decade,” you’re in the right spot.

If you want to wake up fully energized, ready to crush the office or have a fun adventure with your kids, you’re in the right spot.

Pillar #1: MINDSET

“Your mind is the basis of everything you experience and of every contribution you make to the lives of others. Given this fact, it makes sense to train it.” ~ Sam Harris

As we saw in the last post relying on diet and exercise alone won’t cut it as an older man looking to get fit. You need to address and train the mind like you would the physical body.

Everything we experience occurs in the mind. Every part of every day gets filtered through the mind. But to be at its best, the mind needs to be trained.

An untrained mind will always be lost in thought. An untrained mind will be easily distracted. An untrained mind will be easily emotionally hijacked. An untrained mind will give up when the going gets tough.

In the context of health and fitness, there is no way you’ll achieve your goals with an untrained mind.

You’ll face obstacles, because change is hard and an untrained mind will retreat back to what it safe and comfortable.

So if you want to stay where you are, don’t train your mind.

But if you’re serious about saying FU to the dad bod… If you’re serious about feeling and looking better than you have in decades… Then let’s talk about what you can do to train your mind.

1) Creating a Healthy Mindset

You can train your mind in as little as a few minutes per day. It’s a practice like anything else. There’s no one right way to do it, but you need to do something.

A few examples:

  • Morning gratitude practice. Write three things you’re grateful for every morning. That’s it.
  • Daily writing practice. Write for two minutes first thing in the AM to clear your head.
  • A five-minute stretch routine to get blood flowing and tap into the present moment.
  • Yoga practice
  • Meditation. A great app that I’ve been using: Waking Up.
  • Breathing drills
  • Take 10-second pauses throughout the day to simply be more mindful. Pay more attention to your surroundings. Without judgement of what you notice, just notice more.

You’ll soon find creating a healthy mindset is all in the daily practice. It’s not like one meditation session or yoga class will sudden instantaneously create that healthy mindset.

It’s all about consistent practice over time. You slowly sharpen the mind. You start to pay attention more and can better detach yourself from thoughts that will inevitably into your mind.

You experience what a calm, peaceful state of mind feels like, and you’re able to tap into that when life inevitably kicks you in the ass.

You avoid making rash, emotionally charged decisions you regret two minutes later. This is the reality of a trained mind.

And if you’re looking to get fit, shed fat, and build muscle as an older man, you need a trained mind.

How’s that song go? “Free your mind and the rest will follow.” My less lyrically-catchy take: Create the healthy mindset, and the rest will follow.

2) Managing Stress

Managing stress is the other crucial part of the mental piece that needs to be addressed.

If you work a demanding job, live in or near a big city, deal with traffic, have little kids, and juggle a busy social life, managing stress will be one of the most important parts of your life.

But first: let’s make an important distinction between acute (short-term) stress which can actually be good for you, and chronic (long-term) stress which makes it impossible to achieve the results you’re after.

Lifting weights is a great example of acute stress. It’s short lived by nature, and the body grows stronger because of it. The body actually gets stronger in the recovery process, during time of rest and sleep, by rebuilding tissue and clean up any cellular damage.

Acute stress isn’t problematic at all… so long as you can recover from it. On the other hand, chronic stress occurs when you constantly trigger acute stress but don’t allow yourself time to recover. At that point, it’s like the body and brain are always on red alert.

Think about daily experiences that can trigger the stress response:

  • Sitting in traffic
  • Work emails
  • Dealing with your boss
  • Balancing work / family / social responsibilities
  • Traveling

The problem with such stress is that the body never repairs itself because it’s constantly in fight-or-flight mode.

Many metabolic processes — tissue repair, immune building, reproductive health — are compromised with chronic stress. You’ll be at higher risk for diabetes and heart disease.

And if you’re looking to burn belly fat, it’s almost impossible to do so when chronically stressed. Instead, you’ll continually be producing a hormone called cortisol, which has been linked to an increase in abdominal fat.

In short: chronically high stress makes it almost impossible to burn fat or build muscle.

Many stress management protocols are similar to the activities that create a healthy mindset. Find what works for you and what’s possible given your lifestyle, but I like the following:

  • A five-minute stretch routine
  • Breathing exercises
  • Walking, preferably outside in nature
  • Yoga
  • Daily gratitude practice: write three things you’re grateful for every morning

3) Prioritizing Sleep

Want an unfair advantage that will help you burn more fat, build more muscle, and increase focus? Then get sufficient sleep.

On the flip side: if you want a sure-fire path to brain fog, junk-food cravings, and round-the-clock irritability, then deprive yourself of sleep.

Sleep is that important.

I know in our “work hard and play harder” culture, we regularly push sleep to the back burner. But top performers are not skimping on sleep. Athletes like Lebron James and Roger Federer report getting 10-12 hours of sleep per night!

Of course, you probably don’t have the physical demands of an elite pro athlete, so you probably don’t need THAT much.

Even still though, sleep is huge. You cannot neglect sleep and expect to feel and perform your best.

For most of us, I would say that 7-8 hours of sleep a night is a good target. If you’re getting less than six, increasing your sleep should be your life’s top priority.

This is even more important than exercise and nutrition.

Here are some guidelines to ensure you’re getting to sleep and reaping all the benefits of the sleep state:

  • Keep your bedroom cool. Research shows that keeping your bedroom below 72 degrees increases deep sleep.
  • Keep your bedroom dark. Even a subtle light from across the room can be enough to disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Try to avoid screens (phones, TV, tablets) within an hour of bed. Whether it’s exposure to the blue light screens emit, or the stimulation we get from being on our phones, screen exposure directly before bed makes it much more difficult to fall asleep.
  • Avoid food 1-2 hours before bed. Digestion requires a huge amount of energy that makes falling asleep on a full stomach extra challenging.
  • Have a pre-sleep routine that triggers the brain into a more relaxed mood. This could be taking a hot shower, doing some stretching before bed or my favorite — lay out this mat for 5 minutes instantly get into a more relaxed state.

What To Do Next

Now that you know how important training the mind is, get started by trying one of the above activities. Just one. It’ll be worth it, trust me.

Next up: we’re looking at Pillar #2 of the Trifecta of Transformation: Nutrition!

If you want a simple solution to shed fat without going on a diet, you’ll want to check this out.

Again, here’s what we’re covering over these five posts:

  • Intro: Build a Body You’re Proud Of 
  • (YOU ARE HERE) Trifecta of Transformation Part 1: MINDSET
  • Trifecta of Transformation Part 2: NUTRITION.
  • Trifecta of Transformation Part 3: MOVEMENT.
  • Putting It All Together: How to Set Up the Trifecta of Transformation for YOUR LIFESTYLE, So You Know Exactly What To Do Every Day

What jumped out at you from today’s post? I’d love to hear from you.

Are you doing any mental training? If so, I want to know about it!

See you in Part 2!