Practice Closure with Everything — Many people think of relationship break-ups or resolving old trauma when they hear the word closure. But closure is an essential gratitude practice that allows us to honor even the tiniest beginnings, endings, and transitions of each day.
Closure also helps us find comfort and safety through life’s abrupt changes, much like a toddler needs a 5-minute countdown to put away his toys so that he doesn’t have a tantrum (or so we hope).
As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic”. (is this really a post-COVID world? COVID is still going strong..)
What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?
One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness ” I had the pleasure of interviewing Orit Krug.
Orit Krug is an award-winning Board-Certified Dance/Movement Therapist and Licensed Creative Arts Therapist. For over 10 years, Orit transformed the lives of more than 10,000 psychiatric patients who went from feeling suicidal to joyfully dancing and reigniting their desire to live again within less than an hour. Orit is the founder of the Mind Your Body podcast, and has been featured on Empower Radio, Last First Date Radio, Elephant Journal as well as quoted in SELF & ThriveGlobal.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I started my career path at just 4 years-old when I stepped into my first ballet class. At first, dance was just an activity meant to enhance my creativity and self-discipline, but it led me on the path that revealed to me the exact reason why I was put on this earth: to help people heal trauma through dance and movement.
As a teenager, I discovered that dancing helped me express and release difficult emotions that were not safe for me to share in words. I experienced over 15 years of physical and emotional trauma, and by the time I was 15, I considered taking my own life.
Dance saved me.
It didn’t take long to realize that I was destined to save other people’s lives through dance too. I like to think that the universe confirmed this when I got accepted to my first-choice Master’s Dance Therapy program. I still remember dancing my way down to my mom who was waiting in the cafeteria, and with a huge smile on my face, I said, “I’m going to be a dance therapist!”
Since the beginning of my career, I led over 5,000 group and individual dance therapy sessions in numerous psychiatric settings. Now, I run my own business helping thousands of women across the globe heal from past trauma and enjoy healthy lasting relationships with their partners.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
In 2017, I worked with a teenager who had the most horrific childhood story–one that still keeps me up at night sometimes. She had frequent fainting spells when she was first admitted to the psychiatric hospital, yet there were no medical findings for them even after extensive testing.
I had volunteered to work with her 1-on-1 to accelerate her trauma healing even though I was so nervous about her fainting in our private sessions. She did in fact faint many times when we were alone and those were some of the scariest times in my career.
With the help of my supervisor at the time, I’d come to understand that her fainting was a severely ancient nervous system response to “play dead.” As our work progressed, she fainted less but started having more explosive outbursts. I could tell that her psychiatrists and social workers were so fatigued and hopeless about her case, which is the last thing she needed to feel from her treatment team.
That’s when I really saw the incredible impact that dance therapy has on healing trauma from the nervous system. Through our therapeutic relationship, I was able to help her stay in her body as she moved through emotions and behaviors that were previously forbidden. She began to create forceful, powerful movements with her body without fearing punishment.
I reassured the team that her anger was actually a sign of improvement. Her body had finally felt safe enough to outwardly express her emotions instead of dissociating and falling to the floor.
On the day she got discharged from the hospital, I knew I would never forget her and the amazing progress we created together. The progress we made shapes the way I work with my clients today.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
A long time ago, I stumbled on a quote by Boston Ballerina Miranda Weese: “Try to be fearless, because fear can inhibit you and keep you from a life.”
Many people freeze up and stay quiet when they’re getting abused, but I was always the kind of person who always fought back. I never backed down without a fight even though I knew they would keep on swinging.
Today, that means that I am courageous even when I feel fear and anxiety in my body. Even when it might end up in more hurt. I bring up difficult conversations with my husband even when they scare me and I take huge risks to grow my business even though I’m scared to fail.
If I let fear stop me, I think I would still be single, unhappy, and desperately wishing I would be doing more to help the world heal through dance and movement.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
“The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. I remember reading it within a span of 2 subway rides when I was living in New York City. It was short and simple, but extremely profound. There was one particular paragraph that changed my life in regards to the way I treat myself, my husband, my clients, and now my 5 month-old son.
“How many times do we pay for one mistake? The answer is thousands of times. The human is the only animal on earth that pays a thousand times for the same mistake… We make a mistake, we judge ourselves, we find ourselves guilty, and we punish ourselves… every time we remember, we judge ourselves again, we are guilty again, and we punish ourselves again, and again, and again. If we have a wife or husband he or she also reminds us of the mistake, so we can judge ourselves again, punish ourselves again, and find ourselves guilty again. Is this fair?” — Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
I was always extremely hard on myself and punished myself repeatedly for the same mistakes. This paragraph was the beginning of creating much more acceptance of myself and my loved ones.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
In 2018, I left my position as Director of Expressive Therapies at the psychiatric hospital. Now I run my own business helping women release past trauma and their fear of intimacy so that they can have deeply connected and fulfilling relationships with their partners.
My team and I have helped thousands of women in 9 different countries learn the tools they need to heal from past trauma through dance and movement. We specifically work with women who’ve already been in talk therapy for many years but still unable to let down their guard because of how hurt they’ve been in the past.
Most of our clients describe their experience as “magical” because of how quickly and effectively they feel themselves opening up to love again after so many years of shutting people out. Rewiring their nervous system and creating new neural pathways through dance and movement has helped these women shift old behavior patterns in a way that talking and mindset work weren’t able to.
I think my work will help the entire world have more love and gratitude for each other. When we have happier relationships inside our homes, it will spread so much more love at work, with friends, and even strangers on the street. I want to spread love in this world as much as I can.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I would not be here without my mom who told me about Dance Therapy and has always been my #1 fan. But particularly, my husband Aaron has changed my life forever. He has shown me the path to becoming the best version of myself–not entirely on purpose, but that’s how it happened.
When we met in 2013, our relationship revealed to me that even after 3 years of weekly talk therapy, I was still storing trauma inside my body. Even though I’d become so skilled at understanding how my trauma from the past made me sabotage our relationship, I wasn’t able to stop.
Aaron had a way of acknowledging my feelings without feeding into the constant reassurance I needed. He was so different than all the men I ever knew in my life–so calm, gentle, and emotionally mature. However, only 8 months after our first date, he broke up with me. I don’t blame him! I was doing everything in my power to push him away and prove to myself that I wasn’t worthy of his healthy love.
That was the day I decided to enroll in Dance/Movement Therapy as a client for the first time ever. It absolutely transformed my life and clicked into my body all the changes I’d been wanting to create for years. I broke free from my unhealthy patterns, let in his love, and now we’ve been happily married for the last 3 and a half years.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?
Gratitude is so much more than making a list of the things we appreciate in our lives. Gratitude is a whole-body feeling and experience of appreciation and belonging in this world. Every unique individual feels these sensations differently in their bodies so it can be hard to define.
For me, I get tingles all over my skin and a sense of euphoria throughout my whole body. I feel a sense of wonderment inside, like a young girl entering a carnival at night for the first time–amazed by the lights, costumes, and mysteries to explore. I get an exciting feeling of curiosity, knowing that there is so much to discover in this world. It feels spiritual, like I’m connected to a greater purpose in life and there’s something much bigger out there.
Others might describe and feel it like a sense of lightness and freedom in their bodies. A lot of my clients have described gratitude as a state of being out of their head and in their body, more present in relationships than they had ever been before.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
It’s important to define what an ‘emotion’ is to understand why it’s so elusive. Most people think that we experience emotions through our thoughts, but that is not the true order or foundation of emotions. Emotions are sensations that originate in the body first. We may feel a burst of energy and then label it as ‘happy’ in the mind. Or we may feel a heated force inside our bodies and let our thoughts label that as ‘anger.’
Emotions are elusive because sensations are always shifting inside our bodies, every moment of the day. Many people aren’t connected enough to their bodies to feel this happening all the time. Rather, they tend to feel stuck with more “negative” emotions instead of being able to experience all our emotions moving quickly through our bodies.
Gratitude practices are often presented through list-making and journaling, but the mind cannot be convinced if the body does not feel it. Once we establish a sustainable connection to our bodies, there doesn’t need to be any convincing. We can just feel it.
This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?
Gratitude allows us to be in our bodies in such a connected and present way that you can’t help but notice and appreciate a sweet smell in the air. Or the way your partner’s dimple shows up on his face when he’s really excited about something, even though you’ve been together for 15 years.
Gratitude has us smiling at strangers on the street because we notice the subtle signs in their body showing us that they also resent how cold it is.
This level of presence and appreciation helps us create deeper connections in relationships, feel a greater sense of belonging in this world, and truly enjoy the little things.
Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?
Gratitude allows us to feel that what we have and who we are is good enough instead of getting caught up in insecurity, jealousy, and why-can’t-I-have-what-she-has syndrome, better known as comparisonitis.
When you feel yourself slipping away into thoughts of how everyone else has a “better life,” or is handling this pandemic better than you, gratitude shows how amazing you are doing too.
You may not look like the mom down the street who appears to be homeschooling, cooking, and cleaning without a sweat; but you remembered to wash your face today, and that is a major win.
I’m learning this lesson more deeply than ever as I became a mom just 5 months ago. I celebrate the days I get to take a long, warm shower, and I mean really celebrate with my entire body. I notice the way the hot water brushes my skin and indulge in lathering my skin with soap.
There are so many ways we can do this if we regularly come back to our bodies and appreciate even the subtlest sensations we experience inside.
Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?
I have worked with over 10,000 psychiatric patients who went from feeling suicidal to joyfully dancing and grateful to live again within less than an hour, and this is what I have learned from each session:
1.) Notice When You’re Being Seen
I stared into the faces of 30 strangers in the therapy room, all of whom were psychiatric patients experiencing anxiety or suicidal ideation, and announced, “Today we’re doing Dance Therapy.” They were not thrilled, not thrilled at all!
We did one of the greatest transformational exercises called ‘mirroring.’ Sitting or standing in a circle, I asked each person to lead a simple dance-based movement that everyone else would follow.
“Mirroring isn’t about mimicking someone’s movements,” I explained. “It’s a way of saying, ‘I see you” through our bodies.
“Now, here’s the most important rule,” I added. “When it’s your turn to lead movement, make sure you confirm that we’re accurately following your movements. This will help you notice if you’re really being seen.”
In just 5 minutes, the group of strangers who had originally looked at me like, “Are you seriously asking us to do this, lady?” were choked up with gratitude for being truly seen for the first time in their lives.
Here’s how you can create your own mirroring practice.When you connect with others, are you really present for the interaction? Are you noticing how they see you? Or are you in your head thinking about the next thing you want to say?
When you’re with your partner, family, and anyone else, I dare you to see them seeing you.
Make eye contact without worrying about if they’re judging you, listen to them without planning your next response, match their body language to show that you see them, and notice if they’re mirroring your body language too.
I bet you have at least one person in your life who sees you (and loves you because of it), but you haven’t noticed it yet. And if you don’t, now you know how to find it.
2.) Practice Body-Felt Empathy
While it’s important to listen to each other’s words, it’s much more impactful to listen to your body when you interact with your friends, family, and even acquaintances.
When a friend tells you a story about a traumatic experience and you have no idea what to say in response–tune into the sensations of your body. That’s where you’ll feel the emotions that your friend might be feeling too.
You might reflect back, “I can’t even imagine what that must’ve been like for you… but as you’re talking, I felt my stomach drop as if I was falling off a cliff. Is that kind of what you’re feeling right now?”
They may respond, “Yes, exactly! It feels like I’m about to take an 8,000 foot plunge no matter what I do and it’s impossible to relax.”
Or, your friend might disagree and say, “Not really. It’s more like I’m totally locked down in my body and I couldn’t move if I tried. I’m so stuck.”
It’s okay if you don’t get it “right.” The goal isn’t to win the best friend award. This is a practice of truly caring by going into your body to try feeling what they feel.
Being able to see each other on this level creates a deep sense of belonging, even between two people with vastly different life experiences. This takes an interaction of sharing stories from “Oh… that sounds terrible,” to actually feeling how much it hurts for them.
When you feel alone in this world, even within your own home, I guarantee that you are not. We may not understand the exact situation we’re each going through, but when we connect to the underlying emotion of our stories, we can feel each other’s experiences.This is the true essence of empathy.
Do this for your loved ones and you will reap the benefits because this is the type of authentic connection that cultivates gratitude for others instead of resentment that no one understands us.
3.) Laugh and Play
This sounds so simple it may provoke an eye roll, but laugh and play are paramount to our gratitude and mental wellness. I ran over 5,000 dance therapy sessions in the psychiatric hospital and there was never one that didn’t end with at least one person saying, “I need to have more fun again.”
One of the most common revelations that all my clients have is that somewhere along the way, they lost themselves to the seriousness and responsibilities of life.
Laughing and playing is often put last on our to-do list but it is not a luxury. According to Stephen Porges founder of the Polyvagal Theory, play is a neural exercise that promotes a healthy, calm nervous system even through the stressors in our lives.
Find adventure in the most mundane everyday things. Try adding a bounce in your step on your way to the kitchen. Text an emoji to your partner without explaining what it means, and maybe it’ll end up being the most pointless funniest conversation you had all day. Cook something new for dinnerwithout a recipe and see what you can create, even if it ends up tasting horrible.
Don’t think too much about it. Stay present in your body and see what you’ll come up with next. You may find that you feel lighter and freer despite the load of adult responsibilities.
4.) Find Aliveness in Your Body
It is extremely hard to feel grateful for life if you lack a sense of life inside your body. Many people are in the habit of being disconnected from their bodies and numb through compulsive social media scrolling, overeating, using substances, and other escapes.
If you’re in the same boat, you probably learned that it’s safer not to feel your emotions. It’s crucial to bring safety back into your body and reignite the vital energy inside of you.
A gentle place to start is to identify the first sensation that comes up in your body right now. Perhaps you feel tension in your shoulders or butterflies in your stomach. There’s no wrong answer here and it doesn’t have to be a “good” feeling. Just pick the first thing.
Let’s say you immediately felt a sense of heaviness on your shoulders, as if you’re carrying the weight of the world on you. Instead of feeling stuck in it, or avoid it altogether, you can invite movement into your body to explore this emotion.
You might feel an impulse to roll out your shoulders or shake them out. Or maybe, if you’re standing up, you go with an instinct to bend over your torso (as if you’re bringing hands to feet) so that you’ve just dumped all that weight that was on your shoulders upside down and onto the floor. Ha! Take that, weight!
Have fun and play with this. There are no rules. This is your body, and you get to make whatever choices you want with it.
This is how I often witnessed the softening and enlivening shifts in my psychiatric patients as they went from suicidal to dancing and feeling again: happiness, excitement, sadness, regret, love, faith, and so much more. The energy in the room went from “I can’t do this life anymore” to “It’s good to be alive!”
5.) Practice Closure with Everything
Many people think of relationship break-ups or resolving old trauma when they hear the word closure. But closure is an essential gratitude practice that allows us to honor even the tiniest beginnings, endings, and transitions of each day.
Closure also helps us find comfort and safety through life’s abrupt changes, much like a toddler needs a 5-minute countdown to put away his toys so that he doesn’t have a tantrum (or so we hope).
You might also compare this idea to a morning or nighttime routine, but even those can become too rigid and lifeless if only done for the sake of routine without our bodies being fully involved.
Begin this practice through the mundane transitions in your everyday life. You can make a ritual to close your eyes and smell your food at the beginning of each meal. You can honor the end of your meal by rubbing your tummy and quietly saying “Mmm.”
I personally love my morning tea where I notice the warmth of the liquid traveling down my throat. I also enjoy honoring transitions from room to room within my house. When I walk from my son’s nursery to my office, I make a conscious choice of how I want to travel the path. Do I want to walk slowly and indulgently, or take a well-rounded view to notice the picture on the wall that I forget was there?
If you’re usually on your phone or thinking about the pile of laundry through these simple moments, then you’re missing the life that’s right in front of you.
There’s no right or wrong way to practice closure, but it’s important to involve your body and be spontaneous. Give the proper closure to every experience you have in this life, whether it’s as regular as
going to sleep or as monumental as ending an important relationship. It makes each moment quite special.
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
I recommend coming back to your body in a very simple, gentle and safe way. This can be as simple as caressing your own arm or touching your face to notice the shape and warmth of your cheeks. You can even pick a part of your body you haven’t noticed in a long time–what about your elbows? Can you let your elbows lead your body’s movement right now? What kind of a shift does it make in your experience where you would’ve otherwise just been sitting still reading this article? 🙂
Even when things are really tough, you can find a sense of gratitude in your body. There is always something alive and moving within you. Your heart is always pumping, your blood is always moving, and your breath is always cycling.
This is especially helpful for anyone who feels too antsy for meditation. Start with gentle movement and feel the gratitude of living in a body that is breathing, living, and able to move in the slightest ways.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
I’m going to give a different kind of answer here. Whatever books, podcasts, or resources you find, I recommend that you pursue it in an embodied way. Don’t just receive the information through your thoughts. Pay attention to the sensations that come up in your body as you take them in.
There is so much information overload out there that we can get stuck in the intellectual realm of it all. Find a way to bring it back to your body, whether you notice your heart beat faster as you hear an exciting idea, or a heaviness in your body when you hear a sad story. Your body is so wise and it will inform you of what you really need to know and do to live with gratitude–as long as you listen.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’ve already started a movement! It’s called The Lasting Love Movement. It’s an online space I created to help women connect safely back to their bodies through dance and movement.
The mission of my movement is to help women soften into the most amazing version of themselves and express it freely to the world, so they can fall deeply in love with who they are, their partners, and spread all of that love to the rest of the world.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!