Moving your body makes you a better person.
Better being nicer, happier, healthier… just better.
In today’s decidedly sedentary lifestyle, the body is functional or perfunctory. A separate entity, mostly without the acknowledgment of its innate intelligence and the honoring of its many forms of beauty.
The body is looked after with hygiene, diet, and exercise. For many, it is the basic, with minimal effort or thought. More seen is the indulgence and satiation of emotions, at the expense of the body.
The body is built to move. Movement is natural, innate, and universal. Everything is in motion, seen and unseen.
The human body makes for poor camouflage and our ancestors fled or fought their predators for survival. The body was the means to survival – moved us from point A to point b, hunted, foraged or farmed for food, defended homes and loved ones…it was action, movement that was part of daily life.
Now, people are going against nature by sitting hours on end at the computer/TV/ipad, by relying on cars, motorbikes, escalators, and elevators to get around, or simply staying in one position for any length of time.
Movement is not only physical (e.g. exercise, walking, dancing). It is mental, emotional, spiritual…movement is literally not staying in one place and allowing the flow to happen. Movement requires you to let go and embrace the new, with an open mind, trusting heart, and surrendering of the ego.
So How Does Movement Make You a Better Person?
① Bust Your Stress
De-compress and de-stress with exercise. Kickboxing, crossfit, step class? Sure, but moving is not confined to exercise, in or out of the gym. Simply walking does the trick.
Stress is a real health-killer. Chronic stress keeps the body in fight-or-flight mode. This is having the foot on the pedal. Go. Go. Go. Towards out of control. Stress redirects energy to immediate survival systems, pumps adrenalin and heart rate, compromises your ability to cope, dwindles patience, flattens you out, and can make you feel edgy or withdrawn. Immunity? Fertility? Forget about it, with chronic stress. Self-abusive binging behaviour (alcohol, substance, food, etc) is not uncommon.
Find your favourite movement activities (bike riding, jumping jacks, swimming, skipping, belly dancing, etc) and say bye-bye to your stress alter-ego.
Better You: Healthier body, lowered need for unhealthy coping mechanisms, more present, and less reactionary.
② Deflate Your Anger
Sure, you can pummel a pillow. That can help release your anger – much better than flying off the handle at someone.
Try channelling your anger into movement. Physical activity is a safe outlet for your unprocessed emotions. Taking deep breaths, also movement, is a tried-and-tested way to come back to the present moment. It literally gives a breather and space so you do not automatically unleash the destruction of the red-eyed monster.
For those prone to outbursts of range, daily exercise, such as running, seems to be beneficial.
(Anger is an absolutely valid emotion and like all emotions, it carries important information. According to Karla McLaren, emotions come in three states: soft and flowing, mood-state, and intense and she sees anger’s job as helping “you set and maintain effective interpersonal boundaries.” Staying angry or allowing it to be your habitual response is unhealthy. Instead of repressing or just expressing anger, channel it to see its gifts. Movement is a great way to help the anger to move; however, working with the right therapist may be helpful to get behind what is really going on.)
Better You: A less scary and more welcomed version of you, better relationships, and a better role model for your kids.
③ Get You Sleeping
Insomnia can be stress-induced but also stems from many other reasons. How exercise helps with insomnia is not exactly known. According to the National Sleep Foundation, for those with chronic insomnia, “exercise triggers an increase in body temperature, and the post-exercise drop in temperature may promote falling asleep” and it may also reduce it by “decreasing arousal, anxiety, and depressive symptoms….and by its effects on the circadian rhythms or the body clock”.
For better sleep, avoid hitting the treadmill less than a few hours before hitting the sack.
Of course, “exercise” between the sheets is highly recommended and proven to be a great sleep inducer (plus it helps de-stress and releases happy chemicals).
Better You: A healthier, happier, smarter, and more energetic you. Healing happens during shut-eye and solutions often appear in the dreamscape.
④ Deal with Your Pain
Exercise reduces inflammation-promoting proteins and helps lower the pain from nerve damage, according to the International Anesthesia Research Society.
Prolonged exercise also produces endorphins, neurotransmitters that reduce perception of pain. Other movements that do the same – massage, acupuncture, (active) meditation and sex. So no, you do not have to be a marathoner or a pro-athlete to enjoy the “runner’s high” and get more pain-free.
Better You: A pain-free you can enjoy so much more of life – playing with kids, being more independent, more present.
④ Deliver Happy Chemicals
Get doped up with dopamine, serotonin, and phenylethylamine and feel good, even euphoric. The link between feeling good and exercise is not myth or a marketing ploy. Actual brain chemistry is at work.
Aerobic exercise has even been shown to have comparable effect for treating depression as anti-depressant pills.
Better You: Who doesn’t want to feel good?
⑤ Up Your Energetic Bandwidth
When you are vegging out, budging from that semi-coma is the last thing on your to-do list but it is the best thing to do.
No matter how exhausted you are, how crappy you feel, or how delicious that tub of Ben & Jerry’s is, getting a move on gets your energy level up.
Get out of your slump by going for a walk, a jog, or even just dancing in your living room. It may sound counterintuitive but it works!
More energy means more bandwidth to do more of the things you want to do – play with your kids, hang out with your buddies, paint, and just showing up more fully for life.
Better You: A more productive you – be it work, hobby, passion, or spending time with the people who matter. Time crunch is often not the reason things slide off; energy shortfall is.
⑥ Be Bendy + Flexible
Movement not only returns you to your natural range of motion, if not increasing it. More than mere physical health, this means flexibility. What they say about flexible body, flexible mind is true.
Flexibility means we can bend, with the flow, allowing us to expand our perspective and see other possibilities. Being single-pointed and singularly-minded is good when we need focus. As a way of living? It can be restrictive, limiting new and potentially even more fulfilling experiences. Being open-minded helps you face your fears and get beyond inertia and auto-pilot.
Better You: A more creative, resilient, engaging, compassionate, in-the-flow you.
⑦ Get You Loving Yourself
The more you move your body, the more ease (and even grace) comes with it. The sovereignty over your body and the ability to perform (new) tasks and actions bring independence and confidence. Self-mastery.
Being grounded in your body and seeing it for what it is – amazing – also deepens your appreciation for your body. With appreciation, comes understanding, acceptance, and love.
You are a better person when you appreciate, understand, accept, and love yourself. When you can do this for yourself, you can do this for those around you – people, animals, plants + flora, and environment.
Better You: Self-love gives the world the best version of you, allowing you to contribute to your own life and the world at large. Self-love spills out as Love. That’s love, with a capital L.
⑧ Put You in Touch with Change
Movement is flow. It is change. There is no static, no status-quo in moving.
Like the saying goes, the only constant in life is change but change can bring on the fear like nothing else. People often worry it will get worse, rather than how much more awesome it can be.
Fighting change is akin to fighting against life and nature. Great things come when a door closes, a relationship ends, and the past is done. Moving – outwardly and inwardly – puts you in touch with change, and embrace it with gusto, as a conscious creator. Regular movement closes the discomfort gap because it allows energy flow, dislodging stagnation.
Better You: A more present, fearless, life-affirming you.
Movement is a real leveler. It is not elitist. No fancy gym or country club membership required. Walking is absolutely free and you can google for free simple exercises and stretches. Put on your favourite tune, or sing it yourself, and just move. Dance. Jump. Skip. Let your emotions, thoughts, dreams, and desires flow.
Movement is freedom and when you feel free and anchored in your body, mind, and spirit, you are simply happier and nicer to the people around.
When you are not stressed, exhausted, short-tempered, depressed, in pain, you are more able to show up for your life. And how does it get better than that?
Movement is not a panacea for changing the world but it sure does seem like a simple way to get everyone feeling better.
(New to exercise? Check with your health practitioner, find a good personal trainer/movement therapist, or simply walk or take up tai chi or yoga. Allow movement by journalling, crying, laughing, doodling…Expand your mind. Movement is choosing not to stay put and allowing your life to expand)