Move your precious body

In previous years, I’ve written about the benefits of mindful movement, especially walking. Check out those posts (and associated resource links) here and here. As we each cope with the daily and accumulated impact of living through this pandemic, especially for those of us who identify as primary caregivers, I find it reassuring that research-supported self-care strategies (to also include good sleep hygiene, mindful eating, therapeutic writing, and nature engagement) remain available to us all.

Here in the Pacific Northwest – and in my new hometown of Seattle, Washington, the temperatures are cooling. More clouds, and rain. These colorful, damp weeks of fall can be the perfect time to (re)begin a tradition of daily strolls.

Today, on my Instagram feed, I featured images of recent walks I’ve taken around our neighborhood of Beacon Hill. I find that even a quick jaunt outside has an immediate, positive impact on my energy level and mood. As I mentioned before, I’ve never regretted going on a walk. Seriously, never.

Another important lesson I’ve learned through my decades of experience as a clinical psychologist (and many more decades of living as a human being), is this:

Don’t wait for the motivation to do good things for yourself. Sometimes we need to “fake it until we make it.” Or to enlist a friend, therapist, or family member, to help engage us in a desired self-care activity. This is an example of what psychologists call behavioral activation. By stepping outside, or walking the dog, we’ve put ourselves in contact with positive reinforcements – things that give us pleasure, satisfaction, mastery, or joy. Over time, the benefits of such activities add up, even if we don’t notice a significant shift right away.

Do keep your expectations realistic, however. Your goals small and measurable. As in: I will walk two blocks, listen to the birds or notice the changing colors of the leaves around me, and then I will go back inside. Congrats! You did it.

When my daughter was younger, I watched this movie with her SO many times, and the mantra “just keep swimming” can be useful.

These are tough times. So offer yourself extra self-compassion, if you can. (Or choose to place yourself in close proximity to influences that extend kindness in your general direction). And check in regarding when it’s a good time to swim – to keep moving in the direction of your values, hopes, and dreams. This is the kind of thing I talk and write about in the Sow to Savor curriculum.

And when you just need to float for a bit…well, that’s cool too.

More regarding movement. I’m a big proponent of moving in the space you have, which might include a small apartment, WFH office, or city sidewalk. Sure, I love wandering through public and botanical gardens, and local parks, and wild, open nature spaces. But I don’t always have the ability to access these areas, either geographically or with the time that I have available (especially as a mother). And going away for a nature or spa retreat?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Seriously, though. Let’s let go of our idealized narratives about “being in nature,” or “escape to nature,” and look for opportunities to be in regular relationship with nature, through with our wild, precious bodies. Keep it simple. What’s outside your front door, or current work space? How can you move a little bit, mindfully and self-compassionately?

Additional mindful walking resources:

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