We have heard time and again that simple practices like meditation and mindfulness can profoundly affect our mood. However, when we are frustrated, agitated or distracted, meditation can feel like trying to drive with a tire stuck in the mud. How are we supposed to just magically calm down and slow our thoughts when our minds are so busy? In these situations, what you do with your body can help tremendously to get unstuck and back on track.
We often hear that the brain is where the mind resides. However, the brain is not separate from the rest of the body, which depends on communication between the entire system to function. It would be more accurate to say that mental activity is synchronous with body movement as a whole, rather than just the brain’s processes. You’ve probably noticed how when you’re anxious, your heart beats faster, your muscles tense up or it is hard to sit or stand still. The anxious mind creates an anxious body. The reverse is also true: an anxious body manifests an anxious state of mind. Taking control of our physiology is critical to improving our mental wellbeing.
It’s no secret that exercise is good for us, and some of the ways it improves our wellbeing are pretty straightforward. If you’ve been sitting all day stressing over work, there’s a good chance your leg muscles feel tight and tense. A nice walk or run will be a sure way to loosen those muscles and help them relax when you find yourself sitting again. Light exercise, stretches, or even yoga will do wonders to relieve the body’s built-up physical tension. On top of that, physical activity causes the release of an array of hormones and neurochemicals that not only improve our mood but help us adapt to dealing with stress while improving cognitive processes.
Many of us already practice meditation to help slow our thoughts and develop calm states of mind. However, if our bodies remain tense, how long will these relaxed mental states last? While there is a variety of mindfulness and yogic practices that integrate awareness of the body with the mind, one technique is easy to learn and available to anyone at any time. Body scanning is an effective way to check in with your body. By trying it out, you may realize you were much tenser than you thought!
To perform a body scan, sit or lie down comfortably. Start by taking a few deep, slow breaths, feeling the sensations of your lungs filling and emptying. When you are ready, bring your awareness to your toes. With each breath in, begin slowly scanning up your body, stopping at each set of muscles along the way. You can also try squeezing the muscles in your feet as you inhale and relax your muscles fully as you exhale. Continue moving up the body and repeat this process of activating and releasing each muscle group. As you reach your chest, you can bring your awareness out to your fingertips until you meet back in the center of your body to continue your way up. Feel free to start from the top instead, to repeat the process, and to go as fast or slow as you like. Once you’ve finished, allow yourself to focus on a few more deep breaths and see how your body feels. This practice can be beneficial before going to sleep.
Our environment can also affect our sense of calm. If you surround yourself with tense, anxious, and frustrated people, they will likely exhibit body language and behavior to match those feelings. Through the brilliance of our mirror neurons, you, too, will feel their stress. Conversely, if we spend time in more tranquil settings, our sense of well being will increase. We all know how being in nature can elevate our mood, but it also improves key biological markers such as blood pressure and stress hormone levels.
While most of us can not choose to spend our entire lives in calming natural settings, there are things we can do at home to help our bodies and minds relax. Whether it’s mindfully drinking a hot cup of herbal tea, taking a hot shower, turning off bright lights or adding exercise to your routine, finding ways to destress your body will bring benefits for your mind, too.
Our bodies and minds are indelibly linked. When one experiences tension, that feeling of unrest transfers to the other. Implementing practices to counter physical stress and anxiety can relieve your emotional tension and calm your mind. We understand the challenges and complications of addiction can create in our lives. Mental illness symptoms like irritability, mood instability, inability to focus, depression, or anxiety can create cascades of adverse effects that frequently intensify each other. At Safe Harbor, our goal is to address the entire person and all of their afflictions. Located in Orange County, CA, our treatment and rehabilitation center offers a holistic approach to healing. We want to be there for you with love and support, and we invite you to participate in our many therapies and services to heal you from the inside out. The first and most crucial step to recovery is only a phone call away. Call Safe Harbor today at (833) 580-1473 to begin your journey.