Managing Emotions Through Movement
For the last seven weeks, I have been making an effort to safely social distance. Social distancing has forced most of us to isolate in our homes. It’s as if the universe forced all of us to press pause on some areas of our lives. In recent days, I could easily slip into a mood where I'm stuck on the couch, or in front of my computer screen, which has caused me to feel out of sorts.
My biggest secret weapon to maintaining a positive and clear mind has been MOVEMENT!
In my practice as a therapist, I encourage mind, body, and spiritual health. Science has proven that exercise provides invaluable benefits not only to your body but also to your mind. During exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Pain can be experienced physically and emotionally.
Endorphins are known as the body's “feel-good” chemicals.
Like a scientist in a lab, I’ve done the research, gathered data, experimented, and tested my theory. After testing this theory a few times, I quickly learned that it was accurate. I confirmed that on the days that I incorporated movement of any kind (walking, yoga, dancing, or bike riding) I felt refreshed, had a clearer mind, and a more positive attitude. I found that on the days where I was inactive most of the day and stuck to a screen, I felt lethargic and my mood was more irritable.
Some days were easier to move than others. I have been open to leaning on my peers for motivation, inspiration, and support. Sometimes the support comes from unexpected places. The power of social media has really come alive amidst this pandemic. From Orange Theory coaches, to the Peloton community, local yoga studios, and freelance fitness instructors - there are a broad variety of ideas and resources for engaging in movement. All of it for free and at your convenience. Does it get better than that? Although, much like most self-care activities, it may be easier said than done. Sometimes I found that I lacked motivation, but I made an active effort to push through that discomfort. The days I did, I found I felt accomplished and grateful for my willingness to engage in an activity.
The act of just logging on to that class or streaming a workout video to your TV can help boost self-motivation. Two of my favorite sentiments from a fitness coach are, “The hardest part is showing up, and to push yourself past what makes you comfortable.” Clear out the living room furniture and get started. Even better, if you live where there is nice weather, get outside and exercise in the sunshine. Although each day I may not engage in high-intensity exercise, I do make a conscious effort to go for brief walks or engage in light stretching. After taking part in any kind of movement, I tend to feel a sense of accomplishment.
Another great benefit of engaging in movement is that any physical activity can help focus and calm your thoughts, just like other mindfulness skills. There is so much stress and negative information swirling around the news, social media, and our minds - it can be difficult to calm your thoughts. Engaging in movement can allow your mind to focus on one goal or thought. I find that after engaging in exercise or movement, my thoughts are clearer and usually more positively driven.
What MOVEMENT can you engage in to help boost your mood in the days and weeks to come?
Walk your pet, engage in an “Instagram/Zoom live” dance party, do a TikTok challenge, or compete with your friends through your Fitbits and Apple watches. When you make the choice to engage in movement, check the science, and observe the results. See how you feel after, and if there’s a measurable difference compared to days where you are not as active. And if you are up to it, share your sweaty selfie with me! By sharing, not only are you inspiring me, but inspiring the community.
Get out there and MOVE!