7 Days of Fun Microtips to Grow Your Resilience With Ease: Day 4.
A Still Mind and a Moving Body Are the Secrets to Selfcare
Whether you love exercise (and Meditation) or you love to hate one or both — the purpose of this article is to invite you to consider both from a totally new perspective.
As a fellow human being, coach, and applied positive psychologist, I’ve both personally experienced, witnessed, and read the science. And there is a considerable body of evidence that demonstrates how vital movement and stillness are to our welling being.
Now that you are home — why not? Who cares if you sit down to your desk without a shower? Who cares if you take a 5-minute break to do some squats? No one is watching. (Well, maybe your cat or your kid, but who cares, get them involved too!)
Moving your body doesn’t need to be about being the fittest or the fastest. Meditating doesn’t mean being the most Zen or perfectly calm.
The point here is that moving your body and taking the time to still your mind is, in fact, an act of self-care and self-love. You matter. In this article I share with you micro tips or small habits that you can pick up throughout your day to increase your personal self-care routine.
If you take the time to move and to be still, you will feel better, your outlook will feel more hopeful. Your friends and colleagues might even comment on the lightness in your voice or the sparkle in your eyes.
Best of all, you will feel better. I cannot overstate how much taking care of you, of your body and your mind, can do for your well being.
What do I need to do?
Movement I will break into three categories: stretching, strength, and cardio.
Stretching, strength, and cardio maintain our body as intended. Humans evolved, moving not sitting at desks. Although it may seem counterintuitive, one of the best ways to improve a stiff body or sore muscles is actually stretching or movement.
Where does a still mind fit in?
With the advent of all our personal electronic devices and the pressures of modern society, we are always ON. Unfortunately, at a certain point, we get limited returns from continuing to work on a project or think about a particular idea.
One of the best things we can, in fact, do for our physical and mental health is to shut off our mind and focus on our breath or movement. We can do this through meditation practice. We can also get benefits from merely focusing on our breath, for example, practice a breathing pattern or going for a walk or run in nature, without music or a podcast in the background.
Research shows that both moving your body and stilling your mind can successfully:
Increase heart-rate variability
Increase immune response
Activate pre-frontal cortex
The mechanics behind these changes are that both movement and meditation release feel-good hormones — endorphins and other happy brain chemicals. These contribute to you feeling alive and alert. And result in your body using up stress hormones, which together promotes well being and resilience.
What you can do:
No need to go overboard. Be kind to yourself. Whether you are a former athlete or a current couch potato, anyone can benefit from moving. Right now, being intentional about movement is even more important. Particularly if you find yourself working from home, you are home alone, or you live in a small space.
The goal of this article is not to turn you into a triathlete, but rather to awaken the pleasure of moving your body. Everything in this article can be done in 5 minutes or less — you can use these micro tips to build out micro habits, building movement and a still mind into your day step-by-step.
First, let’s look at a few crucial distinctions between types of movement listed above, stretching, strength, and cardio, as they are all critical to our overall well-being.
Stretching. Love your fascia.
When you don’t move — whether it’s after a night’s rest or because you’ve been sitting in a chair all day — that feeling of stretching comes from the actual process of your connective tissue or fascia stretching and loosening up.
A stiff muscle is literally stiff. Yoga and stretching are vital to your posture and well-being. On YouTube or in your favorite AppStore, you will find an abundance of yoga programs from chair yoga to yoga for strength or relaxation.
The benefit of yoga over standalone stretching is that yoga incorporates the breath into your movements, which increases your sense of well being.
My Goto yoga App (I’ve been a member since 2015) is Yoga Studio (now by Gaiam). I love the variety of classes from beginner to advanced and different lengths from 10 minutes to more than an hour.
Right now, Core Power (no affiliation) is streaming live videos every day. Core Power is one of my favorites when I am home in Colorado!
Strength. Bodyweight exercises are for everyone.
No need to be ripped, but if you want to get cut with bodyweight only exercises you certainly can. Sitting at your desk or cooped up inside, it’s all the more important to honor your body and improve your sense of self by conducting bodyweight exercises.
The following are quickly done on 5-minute breaks and a perfect contrast to sitting at a computer or desk all day.
Squats. Start with 10 to 20 at a time and work up to 100. Squats are great not only for your bum, and quads, but they also help support your lower back and sitting muscles.
Planks. The plank is a whole-body exercise that is known for building strong abs, but when done correctly, it engages your body from your shoulders through your back and down to your calves. Another fantastic exercise to break-up the desk job.
Start with 30 seconds and see if you can and 10 seconds every time. Before this COVID-19 mess, my CrossFit coach had us up to 6 minutes of planking. It hurt so good!
Push-ups. Ladies. I am talking to you too. Push-ups are for everyone. Regardless of your gender identification, the easiest way to start a push routine is with 1 today, 2 tomorrow, adding on until you get up to 10.
At 10 push-ups, I like to check in with my form and really focus on a strong push-up before moving on.
Cardio is a word or activity that people really tend to love or hate. Maybe you only run when chased by a bear, or you think that to do cardio, you need to look like Jane Fonda in the 1980s. Both are false.
There are a zillion ways to get in 20 or 30 minutes of cardio. Some as simple as doing 50 jumping jacks on a 5-minute break to walking around the block 12 times at noon.
If you feel motivated, you can combine your cardio and strength training by doing burpees or HIIT Workouts. There are many apps, or you can even Google the 7-Minute Workout to blend cardio and strength.
Got kids? Get involved in a game of Simon Says or Hide and seek. Perhaps not textbook “cardio,” but it will still get your blood pumping and bring out the laughter and feel-good endorphins!
Trampolines are also great for cardio as Intensati and a million other videos on YouTube. If you commit to moving — figuring out what to do really isn’t the problem — the ideas are endless. What you need is the intrinsic motivation and the foresight to plan movement into your day!
What do I mean by a still mind? I really mean Meditation, but I choose to use the word “still” mind because I think it is more accessible and understandable. If you are nervous or put-off by the idea of Meditation than simply focus on your breath. You’ll get the same benefits.
Breathing relaxes the Vargus nervous system and deactivates the parasympathetic nervous system. When you are in FIGHT mode, focusing on your breath (slow breathing) will calm your body and mind down.
My favorite entry point for breathing is the 4:7:8 method of breathing. The first day you do this, you might go for 4 cycles of 1 minute, slowly working up to 5 minutes by the end of the week.
On an inhale through your nose count to 4. Hold your breath for a count of 7. Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of 8. Repeat.
Simple Meditation in 4-Steps
- Choose one of three positions: Lying down on the floor or your bed with a pillow under your knees, sitting in a straight-backed chair with your feet flat on the floor. Or sitting cross-legged on the floor, possibly with a cushion under your bottom. Focus on keeping your spine straight, and your body relaxed.
- Gaze gently at a spot a few meters in front of you or close your eyes.
- Breathe. At first, naturally, and then slowly bring your attention to your breath. You might put one hand on your heart and another on your belly. Focus on filling your belly with air on an inhale and emptying it entirely on an exhale.
- Now, simply focus on your breath. You might say “breathing in/breathing out” or use another phrase. If you start to think of something else, let it go and bring your focus back to your breath.
- Do this for a pre-determined amount of time 1-minute, 3-minutes, 5-minutes, or more!
Use a Meditation App.
There are many different ways to Meditation and various applications. The following three can likely be found in any application.
I like these two (no affiliation):
How much time should I invest in mediating or focusing on my breath or movement?
The science shows that even 5 minutes here and there will improve your mood. The ideal numbers are at least 20 Minutes of Mediation of 30 Minutes of Exercise per day, but if you are going from ZERO, don’t give yourself a hard time. Start with 5 minutes, and you’ll naturally be motivated to increase your commitment overtime.
So take the time today to work in 5 or 20 minutes of mediation or relaxation and at least 5 or 20 minutes of movement. You can do this in 2 minutes, 5 minutes or 10 minute chunks; you can do it all at once.
You will feel more optimistic, you will positively impact your immune system, reduce your stress levels and feel better about yourself. Taking the time to move your body TODAY and to still your mind TODAY is a win-win situation!
Just do it.