I run into a dilemma with many of my clients. Maybe it’s a dilemma you have faced too. Here’s how this goes. I know, from current research (piles of it, by the way), that one of the most effective things my clients can do to cope with and reduce anxiety, stress, or depression is to participate in some form of regular exercise.
And when I ask about exercise, I get a range of responses. Some of my clients have a regular exercise that they do and enjoy. Some had an exercise that they enjoyed before they got sick, or lost their job, or went through whatever struggle has brought them to me. Some were traumatized by grade school gym class, and view exercise as a thinly-veiled form of torture. Some just see it as another chore to try to cram into their already-overflowing schedules.
So the idea of exercising is one that is often connected to a series of complicated emotions. Three of the big emotions that get linked to exercise for many folks are guilt, fear, and grief. Let’s unpack those a little bit more. Guilt is one of the most common responses to the idea of exercising–nearly everyone has a “should” about their own exercise experience. Many of us have also had moments of feeling physically inadequate or shamed, and so exercise has taken on a “monster under the bed” quality. We know we are supposed to do it, but we are pretty sure it will hurt, or we won’t do it “right.” And, some of us have had wonderful relationships with exercise. Then an injury, illness, or simply life getting crazy got in the way of that relationship, and now we think of exercise with an emphasis on what used to be–and that reminds us of a painful loss.
In the last year or so, I have encountered an idea supported by several physical therapists I respect. And that is the idea of moving away from trying to exercise, and moving towards a goal of joyful movement. This means that we start to think about the fact that our bodies are designed to be in motion. That motion doesn’t need to fit our traditional model of “exercising.” That motion doesn’t have to happen at a gym. That motion doesn’t require that you “feel the burn” or break a sweat. Instead, you might dance in your kitchen (this is a favorite of mine), or play with your dog, or take a turn on a swing set. That motion might in fact help you feel more comfortable in your body instead of as though your body is failing.
So, I’d like to challenge you to break out your creative thinking and find some ways to move joyfully through your life today. Feel like sharing? I would love that. Need some help finding your joyful movement? We can talk about that.