Springing forth with new energy

by | Apr 10, 2023 | Trend

Hello and happy Springtime! 🌸

Spring is here in SoCal, and after an unusually rainy winter the flowers are finally blooming (I love it)! There’s a sense of renewed energy in the air, and indeed, Spring is a fantastic season to reconsider your own well-being / energy practices – like moving!

In my latest book, I devoted a whole chapter about the importance of movement to your overall happiness levels. It turns out that movement, even light movement, plays a major role in happiness and well-being.

Whether you are experiencing Spring right now or not, you can always tap into what I call “moving practices.” I use the term “moving practices” instead of “exercise” because there is an incredible amount of data to suggest that optimizing your movement throughout the day is as or more important than optimizing your exercise routine.

The powerful effects of movement on our physiology and well-being

Moving is incredibly important for the mind-body connection. Though there is a vast body of knowledge around exercise routines and fitness, the benefits of movement do not necessarily require that it be rigorous exercise – but rather simple movement!

Our bodies were designed to move all day, every day. Consider movement as important not just for external fitness (societal standards like weight, looks, etc.) but also for your internal fitness, digestion, brain, heart – and of course, your Happier Being.

From a physiological point of view, movement and light exercise contribute to improvements in:

  • Blood flow and lymph movement
  • Digestion
  • Mitochondrial function (your cells’ energy production)
  • A release of hormones that make your mind and body feel good
  • Cerebrovascular health (e.g., increases neuroplasticity and improves brain communication and cell growth in the hippocampus)

From a mental and emotional perspective, the benefits include:

  • Boost in self-esteem
  • Lower stress levels
  • Improved mood and focus
  • Better cognitive functioning, learning, and memory
  • Lower levels of anxiety, depression, insomnia, dementia, and ADHD

As it so happens, we don’t move nearly as much as we used to. Years ago, the average person would walk several miles each day. They’d also chop wood, tend to animals, and gather food.

Today, the average person walks far less, including the distance walking to and from the refrigerator or from the parking garage inside your home. That’s a lot less moving!

Our brains evolved to rely on the hormones and chemicals produced by movement. While it’s true that moving can lift your mood, moving is critical to bring your brain back up to its baseline of functioning.

That time I started a walking club with my patients

Back in my early days as a psychologist, I worked in a clinic with mentally ill patients. I decided to start a group called “The Walking Club” with some of my most treatment-resistant schizophrenic patients to help elevate their moods.

At first, it wasn’t easy. I had to use a token economy (some extra privileges of their choosing) to motivate them to join the club. Some wanted access to more coffee, for example, and some wanted more time with the clinic’s piano.

We walked every day before group therapy sessions. When the weather grew colder, we’d walk before opening hours inside a nearby mall. Unsurprisingly, over time I noticed improvements in the patients’ moods, exhibited in their ability to participate in and better focus on group therapy right after.

Many of them started showing up for the club earlier than scheduled or came to my office prior, confirming that the walk was still happening each day. It was obvious to them, too, that the effects of the physical effort had a positive rippling effect on their psychological health, and they were hoping for more.

I was proud of their participation and thankful for the possibility that just a little bit of walking showed marked improvements in their overall well-being.

Next steps for happier beings

  1. Identify physical activities you enjoy. Is it walking around your neighborhood? Playing Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) with your kids? (Do kids still play this dancing video game?) If not, how about just dancing around your house to loud music? Remember to have fun with it!
  2. Start a “Walking Club” of your own! Get a group of friends and family together once a week to walk around your neighborhood or go for a hike.
  3. Whatever moving practice you decide to implement, make it a habit. Habitual movement can improve your immune system’s ability to regulate itself, delay dysfunction related to age, and produce beneficial anti-inflammatory effects. All of these factors can help you to become a happier being!

Dr. Tal


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