When we move our bodies we improve our mood, emotional state, and overall quality of life. We have all heard that exercise reduces stress, and increases self-confidence. Moving our bodies reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Exercising stimulates endorphins, chemicals in the brain that elevate our mood. We feel alive, inspired, and more content after working out.
When your body is active, you enter into a state of 'flow'. Your mind is focused on the movement, the sport, the physical activity. 'Muscular meditation' occurs while performing repetitive movements involving the large muscle groups. Walking, jogging, dancing, and yoga are some examples of exercise that help to clear the mind. Autoregulation of the nervous system happens while performing these types of repetitive movement activities. We bring ourselves back to a place of calm, instead of ruminating about the past, or the future.
Mental exercises, such as meditation, reduce stress and promote focus. Meditation can slow the mind, changing the tendency to 'overthink' or worry. Scientific studies have shown that mental stress speeds up the heart rate and raises blood pressure. Whereas, meditation slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure.
My husband was skeptical when I explained the physiological benefits of meditation to him. I convinced him to take part in a little experiment to show him how mindful breathing calms the body. After taking his blood pressure measurement using an arm band, he noted that his blood pressure was elevated. I talked him through a breathing exercise:
Inhale fully for 4 counts
Hold breath for 7 counts
Exhale slowly for 8 counts
Repeat 4 times
After completing this short breathing exercise he took his measurement again and his blood pressure was in the normal range. He was surprised that in a matter of minutes he could make a change with breath-work. The science behind mindfulness/meditation has been documented. Now, we just need to prioritize our health and take time each day to Move, Breathe, Live!