If you’ve never heard the term “joyful movement,” that’s okay. Movement is another way of describing physical activity or what one would typically refer to as exercising. Joyful movement is moving in ways that feel good and that we find pleasure in because we love and respect our bodies. It is not exercising to punish our bodies or exercising for weight-loss or weight-control. It is not exercise as our only means of coping. This can lead to disordered exercising or exercise dependence. Some examples of joyful movement might be skateboarding to a friend’s house, gardening with your spouse on a weekend afternoon, or swimming with your kids. For me, more recently, this has been dancing.
Joyful movement has been such an important piece to my own personal growth and relationship with my body. Specifically during this time, as things are pretty difficult and we’re being faced with some harsh realities, I’ve found it to be essential. I find that moving my body in ways that I look forward to and get excited about helps me release toxic energy that no longer serves me.
I’ve never considered myself a good dancer. I made peace with my mediocre dance moves after joining the dance team in 8th grade. I’ve never taken any particular pride in my dancing skills or wanted to share about it with others. But guess what? That’s changed!
I recently came across the Instagram account of Ryan Heffington (@Ryan.heffington) who promotes dancing for all ages, races, body types, and more. What I didn’t know then, but I can gladly report now, is that dancing has brought back a sense of playfulness and joy into my life that has been so appreciated in this time of home quarantine.
In my clinical work, people will often express resistance to movement and frustrations with themselves for being in that place of resistance, something often misunderstood as a “lack of motivation”. If this is you, I hear you. We’ve all been there. I know I’ve definitely been there. Something that I often do with my clients is to help them in identifying what these barriers are. Here are some of the most common ones that come up:
– Starting your movement routine with a diet plan. Just as quick as the diet drops off so does the movement plan (p.s. diets don’t work!).
– Abusing our bodies or pushing past limits. Naturally, we don’t want to return. It hurts!
– Insecurities around our body size or shape.
– Past experiences such as being forced into moving.
– Playing mind games with yourself such as “it doesn’t count” or any all-or-nothing thinking.
With the limited space available to us at this time and the sedentary routines that many of us have been pushed into, I want to remind you that there’s a healthier, easier, and more freeing way to look at movement that can help. Your body knows what it needs. Tune into it. Move when you get that itch. Rest when your body needs it. Here are just a few pointers that can support you on your way to joyful movement:
– Focus on the feelings during and after: Did you notice any differences in your stress levels that day? Did any feelings of strength or empowerment come up? Did you sleep better that night?
– Keep in mind your intention. If you’re engaging in an activity with the goal of a better future, well then let’s remember all the health benefits that come with it. Staying active can help decrease blood pressure, increase bone strength, and reduce risk of chronic diseases (the list goes on).
– Make it fun. Invite a friend if that feels enticing. Do it alone if you prefer. Find that thing that you like about it, whatever it is that makes you want to come back to it.
Personally, I’ve really enjoyed blasting the music, running around my living room, and moving my body in ways I forgot I could. It rejuvenates me and alleviates stress. Most importantly, it feels good. And if there’s something I know to be true, it’s that I’m more likely to repeat something that felt good. I hope you find that thing for you.
Lisa Jimenez is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in eating disorders, mood disorders, anxiety, trauma, and family dynamics. She has worked in a variety of settings including a residential eating disorder treatment center, a court-mandated outpatient substance abuse program, and outpatient services. Through her clinical work and experience, Lisa has gained extensive knowledge in working with children, adolescents, adults, and families. Lisa currently practices out of Coral Gables Counseling Center in Miami. CLICK HERE for more information.