For Better Self-Care, Do Less Nothing and More Something

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Welcome back to our 12-part self-care series, where we’re helping make sure your own self-care gets included on your list of things to do.

On this week’s self-care plan is movement. At White Picket Fence Counseling Center, we talk a lot about the mind-body connection. Science has shown that cultivating a positive attitude and peaceful thoughts can actually bring about physical healing.

Can it go the other way? Can increasing your physical activity help to ease your mind and calm your thoughts? Absolutely!

In moving the body, there’s an internal movement that happens at the same time. We feel more whole and well. We come back into our bodies with more physical energy and the stamina to keep up with our daily tasks or add new ones.

It just plain feels good (thanks to the release of endorphins – those happy brain chemicals) and helps us be more optimistic. You may notice that as you grow stronger physically you also start feeling a stronger sense of self. It’s a beautiful thing.

A quick reminder that before you start any new physical activity, it’s essential that you have a physical examination and get clearance from your doctor and collaborative care team.

Along with a physical check-up, you also want to get into an active mindset. The first shift you might need to make is with the language you’re using. If the word “exercise” has negative associations for you, simply replace it with “physical activity,” “healthy movement” or another term of your choice.

You might also need to let go of some false beliefs or other forms of distorted thinking about exercise, such as all-or-nothing thinking (“I missed my walk today, so I might as well forget about doing anything else”), disqualifying the positive (“I was late and only did half the yoga class – that doesn’t count”) and should statements (“I should be able to walk as fast as her”).

I like to remind my clients that when it comes to healthy movement, something is something. You don’t need to jog, lift weights, take a yoga class, or do anything you don’t want to do, especially in the beginning.

Your goal is to do less nothing (sedentary, passive activities like working at the computer or watching television) and more something (active tasks that get you moving around mindfully).

Some of the most nurturing movement options include:

On the flip side, here are some things we don’t typically endorse at White Picket Fence Counseling Center, and why:

  • Intense activities such as running, ultra-long workouts, boot camps and hot yoga – we advocate for a more balance, nurturing approach to healthy movement
  • Exercising outdoors alone after dark – we want you to be safe and not put yourself at risk
  • Improper footwear such as flip-flops or worn-out sneakers – these won’t provide the support you need and may lead to injury

A lot of people don’t stick with their healthy movement programs because they try to do too much, too soon because of an all-or-nothing mentality. This is a recipe for discouragement at best, injury at worst.

To choose the right movement activities for you, consider your health issues, how much time you have, how motivated you are, and what appeals to you.

This post was adapted from a series of posts from the WPF archives. Need more motivation to get moving and keep moving? Here are two more gems:

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