For many the idea of self-care feels selfish, self-indulgent, and insignificant. I can appreciate this perspective as I too had this outlook for most of my life. As a physician, a mom and a spouse, I always felt like there was no good time to take a time out. What I have learned through my journey is that self-care is the exact opposite. It is a vital form of self-acceptance, self-love and self-preservation. It’s a necessity not an indulgence.
Caring for oneself is the foundation for positive and healthy relationships with others. Without a commitment to care for oneself, the effort of caring for others can become shrouded in emotional exhaustion, resentment and malcontent. Believe me, I’ve been there and it’s not pretty. Taking time to care for yourself empowers you to become resilient in the face of the curveballs life throws your way. And let’s be honest, there’s no shortage of those.
In our daily lives, many of us spend most of our time rushing around from one thing to the next in search of gratification. We are preoccupied with having enough: enough money, enough praise, enough love. Enough may not feel like….enough.
Until we can quiet the noise in our minds and listen to our hearts to answer the challenging and often paralyzing questions of, “Who am I? How do I live the life that I crave?”, we will feel unsatisfied, unfulfilled and constantly searching.
As Thich Nhat Hahn shares, “Mindfulness gives you the inner space and quietness that allows you to look deeply, to find out who you are and what you want to do with your life.”
Mindfulness allows you to stop running from one thing to the next in search of finding peace and happiness. Being in the here and now, provides the freedom to experience happiness… RIGHT NOW. The search can end, the running can stop.
But shutting out the noise for is not easy. Believe me, I get it. I am one of those people. If you are a busy professional, a stressed out parent, or an overwhelmed student you may not feel you can sit still and “just breathe” or for that matter you may not want to because it feels forced and unnatural.
Here’s the thing, it’s OK, you don’t have to just sit. Our minds and our bodies are often out of harmony, but with movement we can get them back in sync. The power of movement can play a significant role in cultivating “silence” from the noise in our heads and bring peace and happiness to our present.
There is no right or wrong way to move your body…unless of course it causes physical harm or pain, otherwise have fun with it, grab a partner and get moving. Having a partner to exercise with not only helps with accountability, it helps create a sense of community which is one of the pillars to longevity.
5 Reasons moving your body will calm your mind:
1.Exercise increases Brain-derived Neurotrophin Factor (BDNF). BDNF is known for its role in regulating inflammation, mood regulation, as well as your stress response. But what makes it a game changer is the pivotal role BDNF plays in learning and memory in the hippocampus and cortex. Exercise is the ultimate combination of mind cleanser and brain booster.
2.Powers up your Parasympathetic response: Rather than a “fight or flight” response to stress, exercise increases vagal tone which amplifies your parasympathetic response of rest, relax and repair.
3. Sleep quality improves with exercise which increases our Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR). An elevation in CAR enhances your level of alertness and your stress resilience to successfully tackle your daily demands with greater ease.
4. Immune function soars with exercise. In the setting of stress, the protein complex NF-kB triggers inflammation, antioxidant depletion and production of ROS (reactive oxygen species) wreaking havoc on the mind and body. Exercise has the opposite effect of stress on NF-kB, and has direct anti-inflammatory effects to keep you healthy and relaxed.
5. Squash your stress. Exercise generates neurochemicals called endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller and creator of “feel good vibes” in the hypothalamus, pituitary and the skin. The generation of endorphins helps reduce stress and the associated stress mediators like cortisol, so that your skin will be glowing and your happy thoughts will be flowing.
Exercise can improve your overall health and wellness, however, the benefit that transcends all is that you are truly in the moment. You may be gasping for air, or cursing me for encouraging you to get out of your comfort zone, but you are in it, you are present, you are in the “RIGHT NOW.” Your body and mind are in sync. This is mindfulness on the move and it may be the key to calming your mind.
Thich Nhat Hahn: Silence. Harper Collins 2015
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