This month we will incorporate movement into our exploration of mindfulness and motivation. Please put aside your current thoughts about movement and exercise. Let’s mindfully explore all aspects of movement with a clean slate and a sense of curiosity.
Every cell in the body is an outpost of the brain. The mind is in the body as well as in the brain. There is constant two-way communication between these two points, mostly below our conscious awareness.
The brain is constantly doing its job of scanning for how safe, satisfied, and connected we are in each moment. It gathers information from different parts of the brain and from the body. When a threat is detected (perceived or real), alarm mode kicks in, and the brain sends signals to protect the body. The body sends back feedback about how the response is working.
When the threat is internal, our body and brain fall into an unhealthy relationship. The body tries to communicate but the brain does not listen. The brain resents the body for not cooperating with its expectations. The two parts keep “arguing” and the discord limits our access to what can actually help. Added to that, our culture tells us the body is a problem to be solved.
Science, however, tells us the body is a tremendous resource for well-being. In studying the science of movement, I’ve been constantly amazed at how our bodies are specifically designed to move. Movement naturally activates health and well-being.
Now, you might be thinking but it is painful and difficult to move, my body is not a friendly place right now. The approach to movement in our culture is often not helpful in addressing this challenge. When we push too hard and compare ourselves to others, we are guided by the should’s instead of by what the body is telling us in each moment.
Mindfulness can help increase motivation for movement and can even improve athletic performance. Yet lately it seems even mind/body types of exercise fall prey to the “body as a problem” approach (for example, when yoga classes become competitions or an excuse to push the body way beyond its current abilities in order to achieve a posture). This misuse of mind/body exercise only fuels the fire for the internal war. There is a healthier way.
The core of mindful movement is our relationship with our body. Receive the full benefit of movement by letting go of the idea that signals from the body are a threat (a reminder that we are aging or can no longer do something). Instead, view signals as helpful guides as to how to move toward our own well-being. When we include mindful self-compassion in exercise, we befriend the body, allowing movement to inform our path to health. The mind and body start supporting one another again and we create a positive feedback loop so both function at their full potential. Now THAT’S well-being.
Activate it: Let’s brainstorm. Simply let thoughts flow, without boundaries. Jot down all of your thoughts about your body. Jot down all of the words you associate with exercise. Include all the should’s that are associated with each. Just see what comes up without judgment. This awareness is the first step. Next week, we will explore how to foster a healthy relationship between mind and body.
Please share what you have discovered in this or other blogs in this series in comments.
May You Be Well,
Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC
Clinical Exercise Physiologist
Health and Wellness Coach
Yoga and Meditation Teacher
Image © Karen Murphy