Movement For Mental Health: The Mental Health Benefits of Gentle Movement
One year ago I read a book that completely changed my relationship with my body. I never liked the word exercise because it felt like there was this pressure to exercise intensely until you felt like you were going to pass out or run until you puked. Extreme examples, but it’s true!
I started using the word gentle movement and the change of wording really gave me a sense of empowerment to take back control over my body. I didn’t want to punish my body anymore; I wanted to connect with it and listen to my body’s needs.
So, what is gentle movement? It’s any kind of movement that makes you feel good! Gardening, yoga, tennis, stretching, jogging, swimming, running around with your kids, biking, dancing, etc. The difference is that there is no judgement placed upon you to exercise for a certain period of time or intensity.
Let’s take a look at some amazing benefits of gentle movement.
When we feel more connected to our bodies, we notice more. The increase in our heart rate, the sweat on our forehead, the wind against our face, the water rushing against our skin, etc. This can also be called mindfulness or an awareness of our surroundings.
Boosts Your Mood
Moving your body strengthens chemicals (dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine) in the brain that are associated with decreased stress. When our heart rate goes up, the body releases endorphins, which gives us a boost of energy and an improved mood.
When I finish my yoga practice, whether it's 5 minutes or an hour, I feel a renewed sense of purpose and a feeling of peace. It did take me a few sessions to settle into the idea of yoga, when I first started my yoga practice, but once I got used to it I could easily feel the subtle effects.
Higher Self Esteem
When you engage in activities that you look forward to or take pleasure in, it’s an investment you are making in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes a habit, it can increase your self-worth and make you feel accomplished and strong!
Movement For Mental Health
It’s all about making gentle movement fit YOU, not the other way around. Find an activity you think you will enjoy, maybe even try something new. Make the process fun; buy some cute outfits and a personalized water bottle and remember that self care is not selfish.