Movement and Mental Health—3 Surprising Connections


Bodily exercise is nice for you, there’s no arguing with that. However Erica Hornthal, LCPC, BC-DMT, a board-certified dance/motion therapist and licensed medical skilled counselor, desires you to pay extra consideration to your relationship between motion and psychological well being. That’s as a result of it’s not only a matter of if, however how, you’re transferring that determines whether or not the connection is constructive or damaging. It’s the main target of her new ebook, Physique Conscious, which was partially impressed by seeing how her shoppers’ motion practices and psychological well being had been impacted by the pandemic. It additionally shares learnings from Hornthal’s years as a dance/motion therapist.

“Most of our communication is nonverbal,” she says. “And but, in relation to psychological well being, we depend on the ten % of our communication that’s verbal to uncover, launch, and rewire these big psychological and emotional points. Dance/motion remedy is about utilizing motion to faucet into our physique’s wants and get on the root reason behind why we’re feeling what we’re feeling.”

Beneath, Hornthal shares the largest takeaways from her ebook, and the way motion—whether or not as a part of train or every day life—performs a job in our total psychological and emotional well being.

Taking a “bottoms up” method to our psychological well being can construct higher thought patterns and behaviors

To actually comprehend how the way in which we transfer impacts our psychological well being, now we have to grasp simply how deep the mind-body connection runs, says Hornthal. This acknowledgement is usually missing in conventional psychological well being interventions that concentrate on speak remedy, affirmations, or altering thought patterns, she says.

Whereas generally these mind-focused methods can work effectively on their very own, Hornthal says, she sees them as taking a “top-down” method, as a substitute of the body-first, “bottom-up” method that she’s discovered extra useful. “When our nervous system is caught in a stress response, we are able to’t motive our manner out of it—now we have to really feel our manner,” she says. “To actually change our ideas, now we have to have a look at how our our bodies contribute to and help these ideas, as a result of, consider it or not, that’s really the place they originate. It’s sensations, it’s experiences; taking in info via the physique creates these thought patterns and habits.”

Step one on this “bottom-up” method, Hornthal says, is noticing how your physique is responding if you really feel a sure manner: “Am I tense? Am I inflexible? How a lot house am I taking over? What’s the rhythm of how I’m transferring via the day? If we are able to begin to discover that,” she says, “after which begin to problem it, or broaden the way in which we’re transferring in that second, we are able to circumvent the thoughts patterns.”

Train with out self-awareness can negatively affect your psychological well being

This deep mind-body connection doesn’t flip off if you’re in exercise mode—in truth, as Hornthal says, “once we transfer extra, we really feel extra—and that’s not at all times a constructive factor.” Take working, as an illustration. “If I’m on the go, go, go, and I’ve a tough time slowing down, sprinting shouldn’t be really going to assist me change that sample,” Hornthal says. “It’s simply going to perpetuate the go, go go,” including that she’s labored with runners who, upon reflection, realized they had been working away from one thing. The concept shouldn’t be to surrender the train you like, she says, however to method it with extra intention, and “to implement different spectrums of motion”—which for the “on-the-go” runner could also be one thing slower-paced, like tai chi.

That’s to not say that how helpful a type of train is to your psychological well being is correlated to its depth stage alone. “Even yoga can result in anxiousness,” Hornthal says. “It’s not the observe, it’s the execution.”

How are you aware in case your present health routine is detrimental to your psychological well being? Hornthal suggests doing a pre- and post-workout check, taking discover of how you are feeling earlier than and after your exercise. Whereas train might depart you bodily exhausted, she says, it ought to make you are feeling emotionally energized and recharged, or such as you’ve been in a position to launch one thing.

Motion can construct emotional resilience

Hornthal says that simply as altering up your train routine could make your physique stronger, making a “sturdy motion vocabulary” may also construct emotional resilience. “If I’m used to transferring throughout,” she says, “if one thing comes at me, I is probably not anticipating it, however I’m extra in a position to get again on my toes to deal with no matter is coming.”

The identical logic applies on an emotional stage, she says. “It’s about attempting new motion, or increasing the attain or the vary of the motion you at present do,” she says, which may imply figuring out in case you are solely utilizing your decrease physique, or noticing that you just’re usually transferring ahead and backward however by no means twisting or transferring aspect to aspect. She additionally suggests “increasing your definition of motion,” by incorporating extra playfulness in on a regular basis life—like dancing when you do chores, or kicking a ball across the park.

“We do these actions as youngsters, after which as we become old, we don’t have time for play once we want it most,” she says. “We don’t have motion at our disposal, or we’re like ‘I’m not free anymore—I can’t do this.’ So having a strong motion vocabulary is actually constructing the embodied dictionary we stock with us.”

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