Why Movement is Medicine

Over the years whilst teaching clients about Somatic movement I have often use the expression “Movement is Medicine.” It is an expression I use often within my social media posts too (Instagram: total.somatics and Facebook: @totalsomatics). In today’s blog we are going to look at why movement is medicine.

Mental Health Awareness

I am sure you would agree we live at a time where mental health is being discussed openly and barriers are being broken down. However it is always good to look at what is happening within our mind and body during difficult times and gain a greater understanding of why movement is medicine.

Anxiety and depression affects all ages, genders and socio-economic groups. There are many environmental and biological causes for depression, so one explanation doesn’t fit all. However, if we consider the word ‘depression’ it comes from the Latin word deprimo meaning ‘to press down’ or ‘to press under.’ This highlights a common theme with ones dealing with anxiety and depression. Many may feel deeply held, unresolved feelings or trauma which the person thinks is best kept down or pushed away.

This deep seated or ‘pushed down’ emotion will surface in difference ways. It could be rigid muscles, headaches, teeth grinding, poor sleep patterns, digestive and/or reproductive issues. It could be lacking energy, motivation, interest in hobbies, life or events. It may show up as a reliance for caffeine to get started in the morning or alcohol to wind down at night. An indication that stress has exhausted the adrenal glands and other hormones which should naturally regulate in the morning and evening. Consider how many people worldwide need a caffeine fix in the morning? That’s a lot of exhausted adrenal glands!

At times people may be unaware that they are living in a high state of nervous anxiety, they have been ‘tuned’ this way for many years. Maybe from one specific event or from many trial some events over the years which has exhausted a person to live in a constant ‘fight/flight” condition. Does this sound like you or someone you know? Is there something we can do? The answer is yes!

Taking the First Step

Taking the first step is an amazing achievement in itself. You have acknowledged that you need to make adjustments and you are willing to step outside your comfort zone. This is where movement is medicine. Depression has a tendency to stop us from moving our body and expressing ourselves. It continues to hold down stress, tension and emotions which need to start moving and releasing from our mind and body.

Mindful Somatic Movement creates the following benefits:

  • The brain can increase in size with regular mindful movement because the release of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) facilitates the growth of new connections in your brain and improves the health of existing neurons.
  • Accompanied with deep breathing, it helps increase fresh oxygenated blood through the body and brain. This brings with it a boost in endorphins which improves mood and cognitive functioning.
  • Combined with deep breathing, it helps slow down your central nervous system and prepares you for bedtime. Having a mindful somatic movement session before bedtime can help with the quality of your sleep and also boost your immune system. To read the benefits of Mindful Somatic Movement before bedtime, CLICK HERE.
  • It helps to replenish GABA, a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in your body’s response to stress.
  • Further mood enhancing hormones are released! Dopamine, Serotonin and norepinephrine are all associated with improved mood and decreased stress. When you move your body mindfully, you start reducing the stress hormone cortisol which is linked with inflammation.

When you practice mindful somatic movement you are exciting many areas of your brain which are involved with spatial awareness, memory, coordination, rhythm, sequencing, balance, sensory awareness, concentration, planning and executing a range of movements with awareness to breathing at the same time. Research published in 2017 in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience compared movement versus endurance training on an area within the brain known as the Hippocampus. The hippocampus is an area involved in memory, balance and learning. Both groups revealed increased hippocampal volumes. The movement group achieved a significantly higher score, due to the combination of balance, rhythm and recall.

These findings highlight how truly amazing our brain is! We are able to grow, change, adapt and develop at any age thanks to the process of neuroplasticity. Anxiety and depression can cause us to question ourselves and also push down emotion. The latest neuroscience research is highlighting yet again that we can grow areas of our brain which may have been impacted by stress or anxiety. However, seeking professional help to deal with your specific situation is paramount. When you acknowledge you need support at this moment in your life, it is empowering and you are taking charge of your health, well being and of the situation.

To read more about how Somatic movement and other health approaches can help with mental health, CLICK HERE, HERE and HERE.

Would you like to release long held muscle tension? Release stored emotion which may be causing tight, shallow breathing? Develop Mindfulness techniques to help create a calmer internal environment and help with your sleep? Check out my online program at www.TotalSomatics.com. In the comfort of your own home, I teach you how to develop mindful somatic movement. Within the online program you will also find lots of support material which will educate and empower you in the area of your health and well being.

I look forward to teaching you these amazing skills.

Take care,
Heidi Hadley xx

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