A tricky thing can happen when we work on our mental health and mindset. Sometimes, our body does not agree. This happens in cases where trauma is still alive and present through the body’s signals. Things like tension, anxiety and even high blood pressure can be signs of a somatic or body-based component to your mindset and mental health work. Using movement, specifically mindful movement, can be a direct and powerful way to awaken awareness.
I believe that all mindset work should consider the body’s wisdom. As some of my colleagues say, we hold our history in our body, our “issues in our tissues.” The health of your body is always in relation to the environment. We currently live in a social environment that, for the most part, discourages us from paying attention to our bodies and our own lived experience. We need more inclusive environments that allow for this depth of exploration without judgment.
What is Mindful Movement?
Mindful awareness is more than spending ten to fifteen minutes in the Lotus position while doing your daily meditation. It’s a part of life and a big part of mindful movement. During mindful movement, you concentrate your attention on your body and breathing. It’s about being present in whatever activity you are doing. Mindful movement lets you move and breathe, shifting you from distraction and busy to feeling capable and strong.
It opens you up in ways that allow you to check-in with your body — to get moving in a way that helps release stagnant energy and lower stress, all while strengthening the mind-body connection. Mindful movement is how you practice self-care. It incorporates physical and mental wellbeing. When you engage in mindful movement, you feel better, and your mood improves.
The principle of mindful movement is similar to other mindfulness practices. By bringing all your attention to the present, you experience the here and now. You become aware of every movement you make and what those movements do to your body. And should your mind wander, you can always bring back your attention to your breathing and what your body is feeling. You can practice mindful movement every day to gain that moment of relaxation and stillness that lets you enjoy everything you do. That way, you can reap all the benefits each experience brings.
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Exercise For Mental Health: The Practice of Mindful Movement
Mindful movement practices help boost focus, improve body awareness, and make the most of your exercise sessions. One study shows that mindfulness and movement can benefit mood and reduce stress. The intentional, mindful movement opens up a new world of possibilities enabling you to move into mindfulness.
Movement Can Create New Patterns of Thought and Feeling
When I was working on getting over a hard chapter in my life, I did all the mindful stuff. I meditated, did affirmations, and looked for the silver linings, and still, I had panic attacks, felt driven by fear most of the time, and couldn’t seem to change my baseline to feel okay. Then I took on a couple of new fitness practices (one in strength and one in dance), and I sensed a real change because I approached this movement mindfully. I felt strong. I felt free in my body. These very tangible signals shot right through my emotional patterns up to my mind, and I finally believed this better-feeling me was here to stay.
Mind-body awareness can be a source of power in moments of self-doubt. Something as simple as sitting in an upright and open position can shift your whole mindset to a point where you feel more confident. At that moment, when you are feeling shy and nervous, try and take a more confident posture. Doing so can help counteract feelings and thoughts of inadequacy. Building resilience through self-awareness has an uplifting effect that creates a positive mindset.
Movement Can Give Us a Sense of Self
“Movement is the basis of awareness: Most of what goes on within us remains dulled and hidden from us until it reaches the muscles. We know what is happening within us as soon as the muscles of our face, heart, or breathing apparatus organize themselves into patterns known to us as fear, anxiety, laughter, or any other feeling.” — Moshe Feldenkrais
Mindful meditation is a big part of physical activity, allowing you to find an anchor for your attention when in motion. It could be the contact your feet make with the pavement while walking or when your hand touches the water when swimming. By doing that many times, you can come back to that state whenever your thoughts shift to something you can’t control. This self-aware state gives you access to switch up your moods and emotions.
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Movement Creates Neural Grooves
“When you pay attention to the quality of movements, feeling states are aroused … the feeling states are what constitute your ability to experience yourself in the moment.” — Anna Halprin
The brain is a complex and powerful organ. It’s so powerful that it can organize and reorganize itself. When you tap into mindful movement meditation, you can change how you think and respond to different situations over time. The technical term is neuroplasticity, whereby the brain changes its structure and organization over time.
Neural pathways are usually the basis for creating new habits of feeling, thinking, and acting. When you practice mindful movement, you train your brain to focus on anchors in the present, such as your breathing and how your feet feel on the pavement. This creates neural grooves in your brain over which new habits form.
Reasons to Practice Mindful Movement Meditation
Mindful movement is more than just a wellness trend. Practicing mindful movement has many mental and physical health benefits. Here are a few benefits you can reap when you practice mindful movement.
Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety affect your mental well-being and your physical health. They can increase your risk of high blood pressure, muscle tension, and even digestive problems. Mindful movement is one of the best stress-reduction techniques. Being active and mindful at the same time can drastically lower your stress levels. This movement creates new patterns where you can shift into mindfulness states.
Feelings of depression, anxiety, and sadness creep in and out of our lives from time to time. Some people turn to exercise, but mindful movement can effectively lift your spirits.
As human beings, we often obsess over what is going on in our minds. We rarely stop and appreciate the present. Mindful movement helps you notice how you are feeling in any given situation. This way, you learn to appreciate things you never gave a second thought in the past. Feeling gratitude like this can help you live in the moment and improve your focus in the long run.
Reap All the Benefits of Mind-Body Wellness
Mindfulness is not just about sitting still and listening to your breathing. Mindful movement helps you achieve a state of mind-body wellness. It can give you a burst of energy to jog or work out a bit longer. Mindful practices like breathing exercises, walking meditation, stretching, yoga, and exercise help to reduce anxiety and release tension, heavy emotions, and stiffness. Whether it’s running, walking, or yoga, mindful movement can help you become more aware of your body.
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