6 ways that movement helps support mental health
(There are definitely more, but 6 is a nice number to start with!)
Endorphins. Movement releases “feel-good” hormones like seratonin, endorphins, dopamine & norepinephrine (adrenaline). You really can get a natural high. If you’re moving in synchronicity with other people, socializing, or outdoors, you may get an additional dose of these!
Improves the mind-body connection. Our body has all kinds of wisdom to share with us, but we’re not always able to hear it, or we may have learned to ignore it. Mindful movement teaches us to pay attention to the information our body is sending us so that we can make better choices to support our safety and well-being.
Decoupling activation from stress. It’s not uncommon for folks to have negative associations to the feeling of activation in their body. A faster pulse, shallow breath, elevated body temp can all feel like stress– but they’re also things that happen naturally we practice movement! Learning that feeling “activated” doesn’t have to be negative gives us a greater capacity to handle these feelings in our body when they do arise.
Becoming more comfortable with difficult feelings. Movement– even gentle yoga– can teach us that it’s possible to experience a difficult emotion (such as frustration with a new movement) or a challenging sensation (think intense stretch or a fatigued muscle on that last set) without needing to immediately numb out, medicate, or flee from a situation. We get better at working with tough situations.
Work with our body’s natural rhythms. Our nervous system is designed to oscillate naturally between cycles of stress and cycles of ease. Movement allows us to use the energy of our stress response to move naturally into more settled states. It also helps us to get out of the “stuck” energy of old stress/traumatic events so that we can move forward in our lives. In this way, we learn to ride the ups and downs of life with greater ease and confidence– we improve our stress tolerance.
Increased self-confidence. Movement is a natural self-teacher. Through repetition, we improve our ability to practice skills like walking, lifting weights, catching a ball, and using our bodies in different ways. Becoming a stronger, faster, more coordinated and efficient mover translates directly to a natural sense of self-confidence. We trust our bodies (and ourselves) more.
What other ways have you found that mindful movement supports your own mental health?