Too often, we exist in two different places- we keep our body really separate from our mind. We’re listening to one or the other but not figuring out to integrate the two to give ourselves a balanced life. If you find that you are always in your head- and most of us are in general and if we’re judgmental about our body, we get even more into our head—here are some good mind-body practices you can use to begin to develop or boost more mind-body connection and confidence.
We know about massage’s physical benefits but what few of us realize is that massage can really translate to an overall greater sense of wellbeing. A study done by the University of Miami School of Medicine’s Touch Research Institute revealed that getting a thirty-minute massage regularly—for example, one every other week—can boost overall body satisfaction, no matter your shape or size. What a massage does for you is make you intrinsically aware of how hard your body is working for you and that really develops your appreciation for it. If it’s too expensive for your budget, consider asking for a gift certificate as a gift, booking a thirty-minute session instead of a one-hour one, or calling a local massage school to ask about their practice sessions, which can cost one-third of the price of a regular massage.
Yoga has many benefits outside of increased flexibility. Various studies have shown that yoga is a natural pain reliever; it boosts energy, improves mood, reduces the level of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body, and it seems to induce mindful eating in its practitioners. In addition to all that, yoga also seems to reduce body image anxiety in its practitioners. A study by Jennifer Daubenmier, published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, reveals that yoga’s ability to help its practitioners develop body responsiveness—the ability to find just the right balance between a challenge and pain—actually decreases their likelihood of disordered eating and self-objectification. Yogis, in fact, felt better about their bodies than non-practitioners, and the longer a woman had been practicing yoga, the higher her self-esteem. You can take a class at a local studio or gym, pop in a yoga video, or find tutorials on You Tube. Another thought about yoga: there are so many different types of yoga. Finding the type (or types) that is right for you is like dating. The first style you try may not be for you. So, if you find yourself thinking “yoga is not for me”, don’t give up yet. Try other styles to see if you can find the right fit.
While it might sound New Agey to some, meditation is laced with benefits. It has been shown to improve sleep, ease anxiety, and lower blood pressure and heart rate as it improves your sense of well-being and happiness. All it takes to reap these benefits is your commitment to making time for a calm moment—you aren’t dependent on any external or environmental factors, nor do you need to force a tangible outcome. Just by doing it, you give yourself a gift. You can start with just five minutes. Go to a quiet room, turn the lights down low, sit down, and close your eyes. Focus your awareness on your breath. Breathe in and out through your nose, slowing your breath and making it deeper. Next, guide yourself in releasing tension and letting go by concentrating on each body part and feeling that release, moving from head to feet. When you are done, linger for a moment as you consider how the exercise made you feel.
WALKING A LABYRINTH
Some people use the words labyrinth and maze interchangeably, but they are not quite the same thing. Mazes are often puzzles, with participants expected to make choices about the path and direction they take. Labyrinths typically have just one path, which leads to the center. It is one simple route, to the center and back, meant to be done as a walking meditation, and it is a great metaphor for our journey. This is especially good for people who are interested in meditation but find it hard to be still. You can forget about where you are going and just be as you go. It can make you very aware of the things that you are able to sense and feel through your physical body and gives you a connection to something larger than yourself. Google labyrinths and your city or check out Labyrinth Locator.
SPEND TIME OUTSIDE
We need nature— historically, we have such a deep, complex, innate relationship with the natural world. There’s a lot of research that suggests that experiencing nature is therapeutic. And being in nature often is restorative for us while also inspiring reflection. So, at the very least, go outside every day, find a peaceful spot, and just enjoy it—no matter the weather—for five minutes. Observing nature reminds us of the visual variety and sheer beauty that exists all around us: every hydrangea bush is shocking in its colors, every oak tree is majestic in its stance, each red cardinal that flashes by you is equally radiant. The appreciation we have for nature is the appreciation we should have for the beauty and variety of human life. Stepping outside helps remind us of that truth; it also helps center us.
How do you use these mind-body techniques in your life or what other suggestions do you have?