We’ve all been there. It’s 3pm and you’re drained. The mood is low. The energy is low. The thoughts running through your mind are getting dark, toxic, heavy. You are in need of intervention before things get really sticky. What do you do? Most of us are already desperate for more time so we turn to something fast to pick us up. We hit up social media for a distraction, eat sugar, drink a coffee but rarely do we turn toone of the most proven ways of boosting our mood – moving.
Society has tried to make moving regularly a thing of the past. We work at a computer, check the weather on our phone, ride transit or anUber so we can get those last emails in and sit for hours in the same position. Yet moving your body can help move you out of a bad mood. Here are 5 proven ways moving can improve your mood.
5 Ways that Movement Can Improve Your Mood
1. Moving Shifts Energy
Let’s consider for a moment what a mood is. It’s a feeling that isn’t passing and contains trapped energy. When energy is stuck it creates a block and the toxic thoughts that created it can’t pass through freely. You may feel inseparable from them.
As someone who suffers from depression I know it’s no simple solution to change your thoughts. Some thoughts are your program (your beliefs) and a program is designed to keep going no matter what other alternative thoughts are introduced. Simply trying to change the thought alone once its turned into mood, isn’t going to work. You need more. You need to shift the energy.
To make this shift, you have to remember that energy performs work. How does the human body do work? It does it when it performamental or physical tasks. If the mental task is the one that’s creating the energy then performing a physical task could help move the energy and remove the blockage that’s partly creating the mood. Going for a walk , a run, dancing for ten minutes or working out all use energy and may leave you clearer, calmer and more receptive to new thoughts, ideas and solutions that couldn’t get in before.
2. Movement Increases Breathing
We breathe to take in fresh oxygen and fuel the muscles but focused and deep breathing can also have a tremendous impact on mood. Taking deep breaths sends signals to your brain to calm down and messages to your muscles to relax. All of this is telling your parasympathetic system that you are in control, you are safe, you can relax.
Deep breathing is how we get oxygen to our muscles and organs. The brain is the most powerful and influential organ you have, it regulates everything in your body. Oxygen to the brain improves blood flow and promotes better brain function,which could help with clarity and cognitive thinking. Optimizing the brain is critical to reframing our thoughts and finding solutions. In addition, providing the brain with more power through breathing may strengthen the connection with the rest of the body, helping to give you a sense of overall well-being.
3. Relaxes Muscle Tension
There is a direct link between tension in our body and tension in our brain. Excessive tension in our muscles can often show up as tension in the brain in the way of a heavy mood like anxiety or depression. To demonstrate this, I instruct students to notice what happens to their body when they are scared by something like a loud siren or the sound of a car screeching to a halt. Almost everyone reports tightening in places like shoulders, chest, back and stomach. Then I ask them to recall what their muscles feel like after sitting at work or in a car for a long time. It’s often the same tension in shoulders, chest, stomach and back.
It’s important to notice here that the physical result of fear and physical immobility creates the same sensation. But the deepest part of your brain doesn’t know where the tension is coming from. It has no way of determining if the tightness in your shoulders is from sitting at your desk or from lifting your shoulders to protect you from being grabbed by a predator. The mind is simply trained to be on guard when it senses muscular tension in case it is in danger and it sends messages to you to watch out, be careful. To most of us we simply feel this as anxiety. There is no easy way to untangle this reflex between the body and mind but there are ways to use movement to release physical stress to promote a sense of well-being and safety.
Peforming movement that helps balance the muscles and promote better biomechanics as well as an overall strong, flexible body can have an impact on how you distribute your tension and reduce the effect that individually tight muscle groups or areas have on the mind. Full body workouts and movement where every muscle has the opportunity to work can help ensureyour brain doesn’t get misguided signals from your muscles that an impending danger is near.
4. Provides A Positive View of the Body
At times mood can be wrapped up in our negative view of ourselves in comparison to others. Part of the greatest comparisons to others is in our physical appearance. In Canada alone a reported and treated, 2% to 3 % of women suffer from eating disorders and 1 in 5 women admit to being dissatisfied with their body. This kind of judgement against our own bodies can make us prisoners in our own self waged war. Using movement that proves what our body is capable of doing and shows us our strength, not our weakness, can spark a deep respect for our bodies.
Another fascinating way to use movement to improve mood is to pay attention to the physical sensations that come up when we move – sweat dripping, blood pumping, heart racing, muscles twitching. Experiencing what it is to be alive can break up the feelings that accompany dark moods.
Dropping into our body may also call attention to something we are actively ignoring. When I ignore issues in my life,physical pain presents itself. Moving can guide us to pain and force us to hear what’s happening. Actively listening to our body can provide an opportunity to sit with it, acknowledge and deal with real issues in our lives that we might be trying to avoid and lead us to feel down.
5. Movement Can be Joyful
At times we lose the joy in our lives. Joy comes from doing things that are fun, free and feel good. Remember being a kid and riding your bike at full speed down a hill, diving into a pool, dancing to music at full blast? You can capture that feeling again and feel the freedom and energy that comes from movement you love and inspire joy in your life.
As adults we are focused on outcomes. What will this work do for my career? What will this workout do for my body? What will this sacrifice do for my relationship? What if we just focused on what the act feels like instead of thinking about what it will do for us? Just for a moment, imagine doing something just because you love it. If we find movement that sparks joy in us and we want to do (even if it has no benefit apart from the act itself) we can find joy. True joy can lift sadness and bring balance back to our lives if we’ve been disconnected, overworked and frustrated for a long period of time.
Movement can be therapy and an inexpensive solution accessible to most. The biggest benefit to using movement to lift a mood is that it has so many other health benefits. The next time you feel like a difficult mood isn’t changing try fun and challenging bursts of cardio that use large amounts of energy, increase breathing and work through tension. If you have the time and means, try feel good movements with a flow like dance, Pilates, Yoga, Essentrics or Tai Chi to focus on balancing the body, getting intouch with the sensations of movement and deepen breathing and building a respect for what your body can do. Even using tools like foam rollers or fitness balls on very tight areas can encourage release, promote blood flow and have a profound effect on the mind as the block releases, tension drains and we relax.
Using your body to help your mind and mood can have a profound effect on your overall sense of wellness. Remember that you are not your mind or your body, you’re a combination of both with a spark of energy that fuels them. Learning how the mind and body can work with or against each other is the first step in improving the function of both and living your best life possible.