I first encountered what I call the Monday Mentality when I was engaging in dieting behaviour. I would design a diet plan that would always start on a Monday. If I designed the plan on a Thursday for example that gave me until Monday to eat, indulge and gorge on everything I wouldn’t be allowed from Monday onwards. During the Bulimia days this would equate to days upon days of bingeing and purging. Monday would come, and this was a new start. Every Monday was a new me like the 1st of January, except Monday just kept on coming around every single week. This is 52 chances a year to start a new diet, exercise regime, habit, project, study, checking off the errands on that list as long as your arm and as old as your eldest son.
There is a fresh feeling about Monday. We start a new study week or work week or just a new week in general. Everything starts up again and it feels like a perpetual chance of new starts and the beginnings of new habits and lives. I used to delude myself into thinking that from next Monday everything would change. I would stop bingeing and finally exist on a minute amount of calories. I would finally lose weight. I finally stop purging.
The Monday Mentality creep into every avenue where we start goal setting. It usually trumps the ‘why not start today?’ and the ‘There no time like the present’ thinking because it is more enticing to continue with shitty habits for a few more days in favour of trading them in tomorrow, always tomorrow and of course, for every single day that we exist in this universe, no matter what happens, there will always be a tomorrow until our final day. Thank you universe. There is a great gift in tomorrow.
Today is shit? You’ve had a crap day from start to finish, have a sleep and there is always tomorrow where you get to start over on making a good day. Wait a few more days and give yourself time to sulk it out and start again on, you guessed it, Monday. There’s always a Monday just on the horizon. Even on a Tuesday or Wednesday there is always a Monday on the horizon so it is easy to get stuck in the Monday Mentality of, I’ll start on Monday.
I got caught up in this thinking pattern during my first year studies at university earlier this year. I had a depressive episode which meant that most days were going not according to plan off the mark every week for a number of weeks. I would push myself really hard to change my behaviour and get to university on Monday. Tuesday would come and more often than not during my first year I wouldn’t make it. This for a good few weeks wrote off the rest of the week until the following Monday when I would get a ‘fresh start’ to try to improve my attendance, get off the ‘fitness to study’ radar, and ultimately get my shit together. Whilst working with the welfare officer at university she said, ‘why wait until Monday?’. I didn’t really have an answer other than, it felt more like a goal to start changing.
The truth is, goals never get met whilst engaging with the Monday mentality. Thursday is as good a day as any Monday to start. Together we decided that starting now would be a good idea and if today didn’t work, I can always sleep and there’s a brand new day to start now on in the morning. This meant that every morning I gave it a good go in terms of getting to places, leaving the house, showering, and managing to catch up and complete some study. This means that even if I wasn’t making massive gains each day, or I wasn’t achieving loads all of a sudden overnight I had started to practice the Now Mentality, which ultimately leads to smaller achievement that build up to create great differences and, fingers crossed it all works out, eventually building mastery over myself, and my illness.
This isn’t to say that I cured my depressive episode this way. That took a medication change and some more tweaks further down the line. What it did mean however, was that every morning was a chance to improve. Every morning was a chance to seize the day the best I could for that day. So each day I would make a plan that felt achievable and not overwhelming. It would include something like, shower, mindfulness, dishes, study. Sometimes I would only manage to eat, and have a shower and that was fine. The key difference was that Tuesday or Wednesday wasn’t pissing me off and I wasn’t then vowing to stay in bed until next Monday before I tried again. This method over time built a bit of resilience and a fresh view of each day being as good as any Monday to try. That’s all I was asking of myself, to try. That’s all anyone can ask of themselves, but if you decide to wait until next week each week before initiating change then every time you wait a few days to indulge in the habits you’re trying to break you are entrenching those habits deeper. If you are trying each day to change a habit, even if you slip up and indulge in the habit in question, you are trying again as soon as it’s done to change it again. That way you are entrenching the habit less, and enforcing the habit change more frequently, which is more likely to lead to a successful habit or behaviour change.
It seems like common sense. It really does feel obvious however, the temptation to be comfortable, which bad habits often are if they’re our usual way of functioning then the amount of self-discipline to say no to yourself and within yourself when no one is around to motivate or encourage you otherwise is great. Self discipline I think though is another habit that can become the new norm in this way. Being accountable to others can help but it isn’t healthy to rely on others to change your own behaviour. No one can change your behaviour or habits but yourself.
This area gets more murky when mental illness is involved, but it rings just as true for mental illness. Although often a health professional is required to guide behaviour change in this instance. I’m not saying someone with OCD can change their rituals alone in this way, or that someone can stop engaging in eating disorder behaviours like this alone. Not at all. For small habits though, the trying every day brings a clean slate and a new opportunity to do better than before, every 24 hours. This can be quite helpful and can help with making the most of each day even during depression because some days you won’t be able to get out of bed, but on the days when you can you will likely achieve more on the good days which could help with the progression of the episode. It may buffer the loss of self-esteem during an episode as well when coupled with self compassion.
So scrap Mondays. Monday just means the world starts a new week. Next Monday will be no different to last Monday if you vow to make huge changes overnight on Monday. It won’t happen. We slip and we slide when breaking old habits and forming new ones. Accepting this and living in the present will likely mean in 20 Mondays time, you will be able to look back and see more successful changes because you’ve had 140 new starts, and 140 clean slates rather than 20.
Each Monday holds no more value in its 24 hours than any other day of the week. How about we stop putting Monday 1st on the podium above all the other days? Each day is a new day. There’s no time like the present. Every new morning is a new day, and the opportunity for a new start.
Work On Your Mind
It is your biggest barrier and your biggest tool to self realisation and achieving fitness goals is your mind. I’ve said it a few times and I’ll say it again, physical activity and incorporating it into your life can be just as much an emotional and mental challenge as it is physical. Sometimes, you may find yourself stopping mid activity because you think you can’t push any further.
Practice pushing your own self limitations and step a little out of your comfort zone. I challenge you, and see what happens. You may shock yourself. I have certainly shocked myself a number of times.
Find Something You Enjoy
Don’t vow to run 4 times a week if the magic of running hasn’t struck you. I would encourage persevering for a month or two with any activity to see if it grows on you, but if you’re really not feeling it, try something else. Try getting on your bike, or swimming a few lengths, or an exercise class – of which the variety just keeps on expanding.
Who knows what classes we’ll be attending in 5 years time like we’ve been needing it all our life. I don’t particularly like group exercise classes, so don’t really go or seek to go to them – but for others, they’re a staple to their weekly schedule. Dip your toes in many ponds before diving in completely, getting all the kit and making a plan that you won’t stick with because you’re not enjoying it.
I’ll tell you a secret – you’re allowed to have a bloody good time whilst working out. You’re allowed to laugh, smile and make friends. All of which help in keeping activity as part of your routine and daily life. Have fun – some of the best times I’ve had, and the best people I have met has been via exercising, and not getting wasted in a club or pub a few times a week: conversely to popular belief.
Do It For a Reason You Believe In
Sometimes we need a bit of external motivation. Getting up in the morning to run can be a challenge. Dragging your arse to your 6am gym class before a full work day can seem like the last thing you want to do when the alarm goes off at 5.30am, but people do it. Hundreds and thousands of people do it, and they do it regularly.
Maybe they have something that we snooze button pushers don’t have – and I think it is a purpose and belief in what they’re doing. It becomes a passion and something you couldn’t imagine not doing. Passing up a few more drinks past tipsy to get up in the morning and feel alive whilst doing sun salutations may seem a bit alien to you right now, but after a few months of reaping the benefit you may not be able to imagine starting your Monday mornings any other way.
Know Your Goals
Know what you want from you activity, and reflect on whether you’re getting it – and how to adapt your schedule and habits until you’re getting exactly what you want out of it. When you do this, you’re more likely to stick with it because it becomes important to you, as important as eating every day and sleeping every night.
In my journey I found focusing my why and purpose of exercising beyond achieving a certain body aesthetic, or fitting into a certain clothes size. With these goals, if you achieve them it can feel a bit like “what next?” or you stop once your goal has been achieved and it’s not really become a part of your lifestyle and if you don’t achieve these set goals within a time frame, it can be very disheartening.
Instead, or as well, have a goal that is immeasurable. Are you seeing your friends through your activity? Are you de-stressing from the day and your worries? Are you trying to replace less healthy coping mechanisms? Are you training for an event to raise money for a cause you care for? Take time to notice the benefit you’re gaining. This seems to cement the “I will feel much better after a run” as a solid memory to recall during times of stress or moments of lacking motivation when running feels like that last thing you want to do – or tennis, or gymnastics, or swimming: whatever your activity of choice is.
Everything we do today shapes our tomorrow. I am trying to invest in creating my future for myself, and shaping it into a life I love and want to be an active part of. Creating such a life when living with the forever swinging moods of bipolar can be, ahem, challenging. Sometimes, my engagement factor is slacking, sometimes it’s an over-zealous lust for a life of irresponsible and whacky endeavours. Most of the time however, I just want to be partaking in what is important to me, to have and hold values that mean a lot to me, and to ultimately be the best person that I can be, living the best life that I can live.
It is a sad fact that I have spent 8 out of the past 10 days hibernating from the world. Thus, I haven’t been engaging with my life as much as I would have liked to. I have to accept, this is going to happen. This is the nature of my obstacles. However, in an attempt to not be sucked into the vastness of my grumpy cat ways as of late, I have made an investment into managing, coping and creating a life I love. I bought a Daily Greatness Journal.
For this week, I am focusing on the evaluating phases and pages of the book, before embarking on my journey. This means writing a letter to my 2017 self, acknowledging my past achievements, embracing forgiveness in my current life in order to move forwards and goal setting. This all sounds dandy.
I started by writing my letter to my future self, explaining my disappointments and hang-ups of 2016 and how they have shaped my hopes, goals and dreams for the next 12 months. This was a surprisingly more difficult task than I initially imagined.
I set to work on the next page. The ultimate start of this journey titled, “Forgiveness sets you free”. Here, there is a page to forgive, let go and move on from anything I am currently holding resentment towards: be they people, things, events, circumstances. I brushed it off as a “fine, yeah sure. I can do that. I’ve done loads of forgiveness work already”…until I sat down to write it.
The page literally just stared at me as I stared at it – in some sort of resentment forgiveness duel stand off of which side holds the greater power. Both sides stood, equally dumbfounded by the other, equally unsure of how to approach the other before finally, they backed down slowly having decided that, this battle was not going to commence right here, or right now.
I am however, working through it in my mind – trying to figure out what exactly to write and how exactly I overcome and let go of such deep-rooted resentments, qualms and grudges that seep into the underworld of my consciousness tainting every aspect of my daily life.
I was prepared however, to feel potentially overwhelmed by a commitment so large and vast as improving my life on such a grand scheme when to be frank, I am engaging with very mood dependant behaviour. I am still living at the whim of life exhaustion, moods, temperament rages and adapting to change – the one of life’s constants that I consistently struggle with. So at the same time I made another investment into a Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Diary. This is a continuum of the therapy I will be ending in a month. I have been engaging with this therapy for 12 months now.
This is fine. I don’t particularly like going anyway – and will be quite glad to not have one day a week spent in the local hospital. However, having said that, for as much as I bitch and moan about DBT the fact is, that since I started I have managed to gain some form of control over many of my problematic behaviours. I have been admitted only twice this year, can count my A&E trips on one hand, have had no ambulance trips and 1 encounter withthe police. It still sounds dramatic, but this is a MASSIVE improvement on the previous years within which these incidences had become out of control. SO despite my disdain towards DBT I am inclined into thinking that some of the techniques and skills are effective in maintaining my freedom, liberty and autonomy over my life. Yay.
My yesterday shaped today. My today shapes tomorrow. Today I am going to engage with my DBT diary in order to maintain changes and try to improve my ability to manage the smaller big changes in my life – like laying the foundations if you like. In due time though, I will return to my Daily Greatness Journal in order to make the bigger changes in my life focusing on life goals, quality of life and building not only a life worth living, but a life I can fall in love with.