With so much emphasis these days on the importance of promoting mental health, I think it is imperative that we realize the many things WE can do, to keep our bodies, hearts and minds in the best shape possible. We must all help each other keep our minds clear and hopeful. Today’s post comes from a guest blogger, and I hope it can help you see how even a short workout, like the 10min building blocks of our site, is a great investment in ourSELVES and our mental health.
Thank you Jen Kopf for writing this piece.
Mental Health: The Importance of Our Body’s Movement | 08/29/18 | Jen Kopf
Mental Health: The Importance of Our Body’s Movement
Have you ever noticed how depending on how you’re feeling your body movements can mirror your moods? For example, when you’re feeling tired or sad you often move at a slower pace they you normally would but if you’re feeling anxious or excited you may be buzzing around or completely shut down.
Researchers have found that the connection between the mind and body is more intimate than previously recognized. Your moods or the state of your mental health can influence how you feel physically and how you move your body. Conversely, physicians have discovered that your body movements can influence your moods and the way you feel emotionally.
The Way You Move Affects Your Mood
The way you move your body can have a direct connection to your brain and influence the way you feel. The association between body movement and mood is called embodied cognition. For example, if you’re sad you’ll most likely be sitting slumped in your chair with your neck and shoulders hunched forward and your head looking downward. While it's true that you're in that posture because of your mood, maintaining that posture can also deter you from physically feeling better.
A professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, Erik Pepers, says that, “Emotions and thoughts affect our posture and energy levels; conversely, posture and energy affect our emotions and thoughts.” Pepers research found that it takes only two minutes for our hormones to change, he suggests that posture is a significant contributor to a decrease in energy levels and depression.
For people with mood disorders, this research can be a great resource to help them manage their symptoms. When someone experiencing anxiety is having a panic attack, their heart rate increases and breathing becomes heavier — similar to the effects of aerobic exercise. Researchers suggest that if someone with an anxiety disorder participates in a regular aerobic exercise, their “fight or flight” reflex will be less reactive because their body and brain will have built a tolerance to those symptoms.
Meditative movement like yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong have been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and other mood disorders. By going through the different poses and changing your breathing, you can change how your body is communicating with your brain. These changes in your body movement can reduce stress, depression and anxiety.
You don’t necessarily have to dedicate 30 minutes to an hour a day to improve your body-mind connection. Increasing your movement should become more like a lifestyle and less of a daily task. If you are short on time some days, you can still incorporate movement into your day:
● At home. Don’t have time to go for a jog or hit the gym? You can check two things off your list with these multi-tasking movements: clean your house, wash your car, do some gardening, mow the lawn, or sweep around your patio or porch.
● At work. Bike or walk to work, take the stairs, park your car further from the entrance, or take a walk after lunch.
● With Family. Jog around the field during your child’s sport practice, go on bike rides, play outdoor games with your children, walk the dog as a family.
● For fun. Go fruit picking, dance, go to the beach, take a hike at a local park, stretch while watching television, take a martial arts, yoga, dance, or aerobic class.
Body movement increases your overall mental health and as a result, your physical health. By taking the time to be mindful of your body movement whether it’s the way you sit, walk, or engage in exercise, you’ll be able to improve your overall health and feel better.