For those that already embrace exercise they’re already saying that they exercise to feel good, and they understand the connection between movement and mood.
But for many, the connection hasn’t been made and they’re struggling to know what is wrong with them or what they can do, and equally I get plenty of women coming to me with low mood, low self-esteem, low energy and high anxiety that want to learn how to move safely and in a way that will support them.
It’s probably obvious that our feelings can influence our movement. When we feel happy and excited, our body mirrors that and when we feel sad or sluggish notice how that walk isn’t as sprightly anymore.
However, it’s perhaps not as obvious to some that movement can impact your feelings too. Your body and brain are working back and forth in a 2-way street and therefore that means your movement choices can influence your brain too!
I often say go for a simple walk. But have you ever altered your pace and noticed how that makes you feel. A slow drag, kicking your heels will automatically affect your mood as opposed to a more purposeful step, even keeping to a beat, however moderate a beat.
Exercise to improve mood disorders
It is well documented that regular exercise can reduce anxiety making your brain’s “fight or flight” system less reactive and when exposed to the physiological changes they fear, such as a rapid heartbeat in anxious client, through regular aerobic exercise, they can develop a tolerance for such symptoms. In addition to add further science, regular exercise has been shown in studies to boost the production of a brain protein called BDNF, helping nerve fibres to grow, cells to grow and develop, which in turn is led to increase mood, and mood regulation, as well as cognitive functions like memory and learning. Elevated BDNF is shown to improve overall brain health including the reduction of depressive symptoms. (ongoing human studies trials are always looking at the optimum intensity of exercise to brain health ratio)
When we turn to look at more Meditative movement, anyone who has experienced a restorative yoga or yin yoga class, tai chi or participated in Meditation will have left that space with a sense of calm, positivity or clarity, and research has been shown this style of movement is linked to alleviate depressive symptoms.
What this is teaching us it to understand the body, paying close attention to the sensations, space and breath as you move. By changing your posture, breathing and rhythm you can alter the way the brain responds, thereby reducing stress, depression, and anxiety. This ultimately leads to a greater feeling of well-being.
Community movement or synchronising your movements
When clients come to me it’s about working through their needs and priorities and supporting them with a movement practise that works for them, their lifestyle and their current state of mind. Not everyone will want to join a team sport and not everyone wants to go for a long walk on their own.
Personally, I’m a big fan of both. I love to be with people and equally I’m very happy taking myself off on a long walk on my own. But I recognise the changes in the two, and how when alone I become much more reflective. That is no bad thing per se, but there’s certainly for me a time and a place for both. Too much alone time spent contemplating for certain individuals may undo the magic that exercise can bring, which is why I prefer to make movement something that is shared, even a walk with just one friend or partner.
I’m a big believer in moving your body and being active in the community to boost mood. Being part of a group, making friends, learning new skills together can be so beneficial for this overall body and brain health. The coming together in a group and uniting is so powerful.
There are also now studies on the power of moving in synchronicity with someone else as a tool to improve self-esteem and overall mood, which would explain how Tai Chi is such a component here. Equally though have you even just been in a gym class where everyone is working together, weights lifted, movements synchronized and felt how the energy lifts? The drive, the purpose of the movement heightens? To me this all comes together even more so with dance. The learning of a dance through to the performing of it as a group, all in unison, flowing, expressing, moving as one is a powerful uplifting feeling, which is probably why dance movement therapy is becoming a popular tool to help patients with depression.
All you need to remember from this, is that the MIND and BODY are connected, and whilst your brain is the master control system for body’s movement, the way you move can also affect the way you think and feel.
MIND & BODY
More and more movement therapies are now often used as additional treatments for depression and anxiety when mental effort, psychotherapy, or medication is not enough, (and along side medication) and I hope that this continues to lead the way.
You may have heard of having gratitude practise, or maybe a friend has simply said to you to ‘be more positive’ but when you’ve exhausted those thought control strategies or perhaps too exhausted to try, movement can serve you here. It can change your state instantly. So, whether you chose to walk alone, or whether you prefer to synchronise your movements in a class, or hit the gym, movement can be YOUR way to access and address a positive mental change that YOU need, want and desire.