When your body moves, so does your mind. How to coach your mind!

Move out of your head and into your body

In the past I have spoken about the positive impact that exercise has had on my life, but today I want to talk more specifically about the power that movement can have on the way we think, how we can coach ourselves to problem solve, form better relationships, improve our social skills, de-stress, or even produce great ideas.

In a life coaching session I had last year, a client was talking about the various different sport/exercise they enjoyed, and after some discussion it became clear how each form of exercise benefited them in such profoundly different ways. Not just in the effort, time or physical results that were gained from taking part, but also how vastly different their head space was at the time of the activities.

This got me thinking, what mind set did I go into for each of the activities I enjoy, and what were their main non-physical benefits, apart from the release of endorphins which are well documented as positive for your mental health.

The type of ‘movement’ matters!

The main types of exercise I do regularly are running, swimming, yoga, and walking. As I started to jot them down, as a little self-coaching exercise, I started to make a note of how I feel mentally when I’m actively taking part in them. I was trying to remember what I actually thought about, how they made me feel at the time. What I realised was this….

Running – I realised that I didn’t totally switch off whilst running. I seem to ponder ideas, think things through, consider decisions that I had to make. I also realised that I often produced ideas whilst running, for both my personal and professional life. I could even see a pattern of processing concerns or relationship issues.

Walking – I realised that I was less able to work through problems than when I run, probably because I was more aware of the world around me. I realised I do daydream a lot more, but this depended on where I was walking. I was more likely to drift off if it was somewhere familiar, somewhere I didn’t need to look where I was going, but perhaps less observant than when I’m in a new place. I realised that I take much of my initial inspiration for creative projects through walking, but problem solving for projects was produced during running.

Swimming – This is an interesting one, as it’s the only activity I’ve mentioned where I truly switch off. This has to be because I find swimming front crawl so hard. Because I’m trying to improve, I really need to work hard at focusing. The 30 minutes or so I’m in the pool, I can honestly say I don’t think about anything else, which in my life and knowing how busy my head is, that’s a real bonus.

Yoga – Since the beginning of the pandemic I’ve been going to my friend’s online yoga class once a week. Like some, I find it hard to completely switch off in yoga, but I’ve realised the more physical it is the easier it becomes. Now I’m familiar with the sequences, it’s become easier to let my mind flow with each movement, so unlike swimming where I’m focused, yoga is a more calming form of switching off. I’ve also started to do 5 minutes of yoga after my run, which has had positive physical benefits to keep injury free, but it’s also a great way of winding down my mind, which is often ‘busy’ during a run.

Coach it….

You may be thinking, so what does all this have to do with coaching, and how does any of it help me? Well, the honest answer is, it very much depends on what you hope to achieve, and what you’re looking for and how invested you are in change.

It may be too simplistic a view, but I’ll use a physical example, if you’re looking to lose weight the most effective way to achieve this is to work out the best forms of exercise for you to reach your goals.(as well as the more obvious dietary advise). A trainer may suggest a mixture of cardio, with some light weights for muscle conditioning. So if you’re able to create an ‘exercise recipe’ for your physical health, why not have one for other parts of your life. A ‘recipe’ that would help you with problem solving, generating ideas, stress reduction, greater self-awareness, or even improve the relationships you have with others. You could be coaching yourself whilst you move, without even realising it.

Why not, give it a go…….

In order to make any form of change, part of it needs to be physical. Julia Cameron, author of the Artists Way, references ‘Move out of you head and into your body’. I love this phrase, but if this seems an odd notion to you, I urge you to try something. The next time you’re trying to think of a way through a problem for example, or perhaps there’s tension with a colleague at work, what happens if, instead of sitting and brooding over the issue, you decide to get up and go for a walk on your own?  (Obviously don’t try this if you’re in the middle of a meeting/talk with your boss, as that’ll not go down too well)

Coach yourself – What impact does that walk have on how you’re feeling?

There have been numerous studies of the power of walking on our minds. ‘The benefits of walking meetings, walking breaks, and even short walks around the office or on a treadmill include sharpening the mind, dispelling doubt and procrastination, releasing beneficial endorphins, and encouraging inspiration and creativity.’

If we get up and connect to the world around us, we quickly lose the obsessiveness on ourselves. Quite often I’ve found I need that time and the motion of walking to gain perspective. In coaching we call this reframing, much easier said than done in many instances.

In the Artists Way, which I’ve referred to previous posts, Julia Cameron refers to how artists benefit from sensory saturation through walking. Something with definitely resonates with me.

I would say that walking is the main type of exercise I do that provides me with initial creative inspiration. The slowness allows me more time to take in my surroundings, and fully connect with the world outside my own head space.

So the next you swim, ride, stride, or run, canter, paddle, climb I wonder what journey you’ll be taking your mind on!? Hopefully, I’ve given you some food for thought!

If you’re interesting to know whether I can help you as a life coach, to take the next steps, however big or small, why not get in touch or sign up to my monthly newsletters for up-to-date news, blog posts or events.

Take care until next time

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