Five ways to move for your mood that you might not have thought of…

We’re all being constantly bombarded with statistics and information telling us we don’t do enough exercise, we’re too fat and we’re not burning enough energy because we sit all day.

I’m not (necessarily) disagreeing with those sentiments, but I do believe that moving your body is about SO MUCH more than just energy burnt, or minutes logged. For me, moving your body is about connection with yourself, enjoyment of life, and self-care – honouring the incredible physical feats our body achieves on a daily basis – for example, when you start moving faster, you don’t have to think about breathing more to get more oxygen – your body is constantly measuring minute changes in your inner-chemistry, and just makes this adjustment naturally – how rad is that! Getting more movement doesn’t need to mean going to the gym, signing up to a team sport or joining a group fitness class.

Here’s a list of five ways to move that are about getting to know your body and the different shapes and movements it’s capable of, but also having fun and feeling good!

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Free, expressive, no-instruction dance.

Try No lights No Lycra (just what it sounds like – a darkened room where you ‘have a date with yourself on the dance floor’), 5rhythms (creative expressive dance) or just turn up the stereo in your lounge-room! Try thinking about how your body naturally wants to move to the different rhythms you hear, instead of thinking about how you look.

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Self massage/rolling

Movement ≠exercise. Moving your body doesn’t have to be about getting a sweat up. Using therapy balls, tennis balls, foam rollers, yoga blocks, or other soft-ish bits and bobs you find around, you can get to know areas of your body that you might have lost touch with. Proprioception is the name of our sense of knowing where our body is in space – and self-massage can help to improve this. My favourite therapy balls come from here.

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Your local play-ground

Sure, the local council may have built the play-grounds with kids in mind, but there’s no rules to say adults can’t use them too! If you have kids, take them along and join in the fun, if you don’t have kids, playgrounds are often pretty empty during school hours or first thing in the morning. They are a great place for trying out some movements you might not have done since you were a kid – like hanging, climbing and crawling through tunnels. Bonus – it’s free!

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Bouncing

How many years since you bounced on a trampoline? Bouncing has become a popular activity recently, with companies like Bounce Inc and Xtreme Air opening up giant buildings full of fun things like mega trampolines and ball pits. You will definitely get a sweat up with this one – I recommend getting a bunch of friends to join you (so you have a team for dodge ball!).

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Indoor rock climbing

Indoor climbing is great for many reasons – it’s great for your coordination and neural stimulation (brain training!) and you will definitely feel your arm muscles the next day! More than that though, you need to have trust in the person who is belaying for you (holding your harness rope taut) and it can be quite exhilarating when you make it all the way to the top for the first time – it’s quite high! This is another good one for bringing a friend along – it helps to have someone handy to belay for you. Check out Hardrock if you’re in Melbourne.

 

What about you? Do you have more ideas for fun ways of moving your body?

 

what it’s like to live in a depressed mind

Sometimes there’s doom in my mind

Doom, death and destruction. There’s an air of hopelessness, of grey. My mind points out all the things that are wrong with me, that are wrong with the world. The terror, the death, the injustices and the atrocities that occur daily. It’s fucking depressing in here. How is a person meant to thrive with this going on inside their head, all day every day? When the one who you rely on to advise you, advises you that the world is shit, that you are shit, that it’s all fucked? Sometimes it feels like it’s not worth living when living feels like this.

But.

My mind is also the opposite.

It’s also the place of light and love. It’s the place that keeps trying, keeps offering me new solutions about what might work to make me feel better. It keeps driving my body to get outside and exercise, even when I feel so so tired, tired to my bones. It’s my mind who offers me gems like this little thought –> maybe it’s the world that’s fucked, and depression is a natural, normal response to that. Maybe I’m the ‘normal’ one to feel down about all these things!
My mind can interact with other people I let inside my bubble in these moments, and connect with them on a level so deep that many never make it there. My mind points out that it’s my depression that creates this connection. That and the other person in the interactions’ own brand of fuckedupness.

It’s my mind that tells me that perhaps if I read a book I’ll feel better. It’s my mind that encourages me to cuddle my partner, and phone my mum. It’s my mind that points out that far from the idea that my depression makes me a crap phoney in my profession (movement for mental health and wellbeing) it is actually the greatest gift I can offer the people I work with. I’ve been there. I am there. I get it.

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And it’s my mind that reminds me I can offer hope.

Not the hope of a cure, I’m not touting ‘do what I do and you can be like me, cured!’ but rather, hope of a life worth living.

When I’ve been depressed is when I’ve been able to write my most connecting pieces of writing. The pieces that other people connect with, because they’ve been there too. The pieces that talk about grey, about disconnect and overwhelm. About the lack of colour and vibrance in a life. About the drag, the constant drag, where getting through a day feels like wading through honey. All while you plaster a smile on your face, for the moments when you have to make eye contact with people who, if you’re not careful, might see what’s happening behind your eyes. Because what would happen if they did? Society says you wouldn’t be respected at your job anymore. Your employer might find a reason to ‘let you go’. You might lose a perception of capability. People might think you are weak, selfish. Or wallowing in your own self-pity.

You know what though? When I tell people I am feeling depressed, or when I talk about how I’ve felt depressed in the past, the most common thing that comes up?

“Me too.”

It gives people the safety and permission to bare their own soul. It provides a space where they know they won’t be judged. It lets people just be, whoever they are, at their core.

I’m in this profession because I care, and because I’ve been there.

Because I have experienced, in my own mind, my own viscera, the difference it can make. The way movement opens us up to emotions we’ve been holding in. The way muscles clenching and relaxing bursts energy rushing through our veins. The way breath and movement in synch creates the space for us to just be, a blessed relief from the pounding, repetitive thoughts that are so often around at the moment.

I thank my mind for the hope and love and support it gives me, and equally for the depths it’s taken me to, for the connection it’s led to. If it’s anything, this life is a crazy adventure.

Has your fuckupness ever led to a deeper connection? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. xx

Five reasons you should take your movement outdoors

take-your-movement-outsideimage from here

1) It improves your mood

Around here, we talk all the time about how exercise improves mood. Recent studies have shown that this effect might be enhanced by doing your exercise outside! Even spending five minutes exercising outside has been shown to improve mood levels. Why not pop outside on your lunch break and look at a tree!

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2) It makes you exercise harder

When allowed to self-select walking speed both indoors and outdoors, people walk faster outside! This might be due to a ‘distraction’ factor that exists when exercising outdoors, similar to the affect music can have on your exercise intensity. Take your run from the treadmill to the park and see if you have a better time.

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3) It could decrease your risk of heart attack

Viewing a forest (both a picture, and walking in one in real life) has been shown to increase heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is inversely associated with risk of cardiovascular disease, which means the higher the HRV, the lower the risk! And decreased risk of heart disease is always good.

move-outside-5-reasonsimage from here

4) It can increase your immune function

Certain hormones that are released in times of stress (epinephrine, nor-epinephrine and cortisol) all decrease after being in nature. This is great in itself, but as a bonus, the decrease in epinephrine is associated with an increase in immune function by an increase of natural killer cells! (NK cells get rid of cells that have gone a bit wonky, before they turn into something nasty, like cancer).

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5) Exercise feels easier

When asked to exercise at a given level of perceived exertion (how hard you think you are working) people exercised at a higher intensity when they were outdoors. This means that exercising at the same intensity felt easier, so people increased their effort outside. You can workout at your usual intensity and it might feel easier!

Do you prefer to exercise inside or out? How come? Let me know in the comments!

Gladwell et al. Extreme Physiology & Medicine 2013, 2:3 http://www.extremephysiolmed.com/content/2/1/3