Keeping up your mindful movements each day, even when you don’t feel your best, is super important for your long-term health and wellbeing.
No one enjoys being sick; it’s miserable, your body is fatigued, your appetite is non-existent, and you can often feel like you just have no ‘get up and go’. So, how can you motivate yourself to get moving when you feel crappy?
As somebody who exercises regularly, I enjoy it because it releases the endorphins that make you feel great, and because it reminds me that I’m creating a stronger future for myself where I can take actively keep enjoying my life. But, while exercise is important to me, it’s just as important to know when to dial it back and take it a little easier.
We’ve all had those mornings where we’ve woken up and felt really blah thanks to some virus or bug, so what does that mean for exercising? Should we still force ourselves out of bed and to the gym, or is it smarter to stay home and recover?
For me, being sick means cancelling the structured exercise classes but still incorporating gentle exercise and mindful movement into my recovery, so instead of doing Pilates at the gym, I do gentle stretching at home.
The stretching helps me to feel good, I’m not completely cutting out mindful movement but just as importantly, I’m giving my body time to rest and recover. It’s about finding something that’s going to work well for future proofing yourself, without overexerting yourself and potentially doing damage.
If you exercise as normal while you’re sick, you might feel better for a period of time because exercise does release a really good happy hormone (similar to what you get when you have a newborn baby), but ultimately, when you’re sick, your body is under stress. And exercise is a form of physiological stress.
Sometimes, resting is the best thing you can do for your body.
I call it ‘active recovery’. Resting doesn’t just mean sitting down and doing nothing – it’s not an excuse to stop all mindful movements, but if you’re not well, a good mindful movement would be to go outside and get some vitamin D in the sunshine, while you do some gentle walking. You’re still getting some exercise and helping future proof your body, but you’re not overdoing it AND you’re focusing on your movements as well as the world around you, so it’s allowing your brain to relax as well.
What is mindful movement?
Mindful movement is being really considered in your body and moving in a way that keeps us present and aware of what we’re doing.
The thing about movement is that it can become quite mechanical, especially if you’re used to doing things like lifting weights or activities that are very structured. A lot of people are listening to music on their headphones, they’re looking at social media their phone – they’re not in the moment and being mindful; instead, they’re going through the motions, and that’s not really what you would consider mindful movement.
On the other hand, yoga is a really great form of mindfulness because you’re breathing, you’re focusing your thinking on what it is you’re doing, and you’re feeling it within your body using your senses.
Can you use mindful movement for any exercise?
You can totally transfer that skill set to something like lifting weights. You can lift weights in a mindful way, but it’s all about choice and it’s about tuning into your body. Mindfulness is about being in the moment, activating your senses and noticing the way that your body feels when you are moving.
Mindful movement can look different for different people. Something as simple as going for a walk outside could be mindful or distracted, it depends on how you want to approach it. I see people go on a walk and they’re on their phone the whole time, or they’re taking a video of themselves and putting it on a Facebook Live, and for me, that’s not mindful movement at all. That is complete distraction and not being involved in the moment.
If you want to introduce mindful movements to something like a walk, take your headphones off, listen to nature, notice the birds flying across the sky, feel the breeze on your face, sink into the ground with every step and notice the smell of the environment around you.
That takes a simple walk to a whole different level by being conscious of what you’re doing and what’s happening around you.
What are the benefits of mindful movement?
One of the biggest benefits is that you’re actually embracing a moment. When we are more mindful it brings a whole other layer of flow into our day, which is where we’re integrating all of those senses, our breath, our brainwaves, and we’re actually creating space in our lives.
Movement is one of those things that makes you feel good, but it’s a good opportunity to be mindful. Mindfulness is a form of meditation. If you are mindful when you move, and you’re aware of everything around you, that’s a form of meditation where you’re allowing your brain to have a break.