In a previous post, we talked all about what self-care is, why it matters, and how it can lay the foundation for other even more transformational changes in your life. Here we dig into the building blocks of self-care:
Let’s look a little closer at Movement!
Taking good care of ourselves is a comprehensive process for which most of us give very little thought. When we were children, we had parents who made sure we ate enough of the right foods at the right times of the day and made sure we got into bed at a decent hour most of the time so we could grow and be healthy. When we sat on the couch for too long watching TV or reading a book, they hopefully shooed us out the door to ride our bike or encouraged us to play a sport or hike in nature.
Something happens to us as we grow up. We are supposed to take over our care in the way that our parents cared for us. But, most adults don’t seem to naturally adopt that self-care mentality. In high school and college, we eat junk food and stay up too late. Unless we play a sport, most of our outside physical activity is limited to essential walking from place to place. As our daily responsibilities grow, the time and attention spent on taking care of our physical health often get smaller. Especially as it pertains to exercise.
When you see this word, it either elicits a feeling of excitement and anticipation or one of dread and guilt. Because I see both of these reactions in my office, I want to add a broader word as we talk about the importance of exercise in our self-care plan. Movement. Why movement? Because I want you to think about exercise in terms of what it does for you and how it can be accomplished in ways that you may not have thought of before. Maybe you like the word exercise. If you do, then keep it at the top of your happy list. But if exercise is something you dread rather than crave, then I’m asking you to be willing to look at it through a different lens.
Our bodies are made and meant to move!
Researchers are finding that healthy movement like exercise has phenomenal powers to protect and care for the body, even heal it. When you move the muscles in your body, whether through stretching or cardio work, it sets in motion all of the processes that work together to keep you healthy. Let’s take a quick list of some of the benefits that come to us when we move.
Physical movement and exercise:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Keeps the body oxygenated
- Works out the respiratory system
- helps joints, ligaments, and muscles prevent arthritis
- Protects and strengthens your heart as it is forced to pump your blood at a quicker pace
- Improves digestion
- Stresses your bones which causes them to continually rebuild preventing osteoporosis
- Strengthens your immune system by working your respiratory system and raising your body temperature which makes it tough for bacteria and viruses to thrive
- Improves circulation which influences the production of macrophages (think little cellular infection-fighting ninjas) in your blood
Exercise literally teaches your body that it can do hard things. It simulates stress and then resolves it by using the circulatory, respiratory and muscular systems to respond to that stress. This is a pattern that can translate into your psychological handling of stress and train your brain to be more resilient.
Research has shown the incredible power exercise and movement has on the brain. When you move your muscles and bones you require all of your body to work as it should. The brain recognizes the stress this puts on all of those systems and sends “helpers” in the form of neurotransmitters to support and care for the body. This response to stress is what feels good when you exercise. It literally has the power to improve mood by producing serotonin and the amino acid Tryptophan which is important in the production of serotonin. Even if you don’t get the “runners high” that many talk about it, you are still getting a huge benefit to how your brain processes the chemicals that control and influence your mood.
In other words, healthy movement actually empowers you, not just physically but mentally and emotionally from the inside out.
There are so many facets of your life that you have little or no control over, but moving your body isn’t one of them.
Exercise also decreases the hormones that are usually sent out when we experience external stress. These kinds of hormones wreak havoc on our health. Exercise allows the body to “work out” stress we pick up during our day.
There’s some great research over the last few years that have found the power of exercise in treating mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Walking, dancing, swimming or playing sports all have physical and psychological benefits that have a powerful effect on the depressed brain.
Possibly the greatest reason to exercise on a regular basis is the following.
Your brain recognizes that the things we choose to do on a regular basis are the things that are the most important to us. We show what we value by how much time and how much effort we invest. With all of the talk of self-esteem and figuring out how to like ourselves more and stop the negative self-talk and self-sabotaging behavior, it may be surprising to know that you can retrain your brain to esteem yourself. When you exercise on a regular basis, you are literally teaching your brain to value you!
The way your brain looks at the world creates your reality. When your brain realizes that you are doing something that costs time, costs energy and is happening on a regular and committed basis, it begins to believe that the thing you are doing and why you are doing is extremely important.
Translated into applicable language, when you exercise, your brain begins to believe that YOU are valuable.
When you’re good at self-care your body will return the favor and begin taking better care of you too!
This fact is a powerful one. It has ramifications that show up in how your body heals itself, what hormones it emits and how it handles stress. Knowing that you are a friend to yourself – that you are caring for your body in a deliberate way allows your brain to feel safe. When safety is detected, the body relaxes. Stress from the outside world will always be a presence in our lives, but stress from inside of us can be greatly diminished, even eliminated. Our brain, body, and emotions all need to know that there is a friend within us rather than an enemy. Read In the Battle for our hearts and minds, who will win?
Friend or foe is actually a choice we need to make. No matter the past treatment we may have experienced or the current situations we may find ourselves in, choosing to be on your own side is critical to thriving.
Decide today to take a first step in the right direction! Take a moment and consider how you are going to get moving. Here are some suggestions you can begin implementing in your life today!
Suggested Steps to take now!
1. Start by walking! Often when we think of exercise, we think about going to a gym, lifting weights or running a mile or two. Studies have shown that a brisk walk once a day for just 20-30 minutes has not only health benefits for your heart, but also boosts your mood and creativity.
2. Choose to be active in your recreation. When given a choice to sit in a movie theater or go kayaking or playing tennis, choose the activity that gets you moving!
3. Put music on in your home and dance! It may sound a little silly, but moving with a beat boosts your mood as well as gets your heart rate up. Doing this with your kids can also create some family bonding that will pay off later for both you and your kids!
The goal is to PLAN for your movement each and every day. When something is important to you, you prepare for and take exceptional care of that thing. You are worth taking care of- so take the time to plan when and how you are going to move!
Remember every little step contributes to the overall goal!