Megan Hine on movement as an aid to well-being
Our brilliant columnist Meg writes about the serenity of movement to help with your well-being.
Are your spirits lifted when you are out exploring with your dog? Do you feel calm when you’re walking in a park? Do you feel exhilarated freewheeling down a hill on your bike or hurtling through the mountains on skis?
Moving in the outdoors as far back as I remember has been my escape from pressures of society, from stress. In natural or wild places, I find a place to create, to imagine, to put worries into perspective and to solve life’s problems. To this day, even though the outdoors is where I go to work it is still the place I find answers and time for quiet reflection.
On a busy shoot, myself and the rope team will often be the first out on the ground to rig or tighten pre-rigged stunts. This walk in to get to where we are rigging is a form of meditation to me. The quiet of the early morning, that time of the day before the sun rises when the world is full of possibility and magic. Feeling the weight of the pack on my back, stiff muscles loosening off. Feeling my breath labored at first, then warm up to fill my body with fresh oxygen and push the sleep from my limbs. These are moments I treasure, the moments of calm before the adrenalin of the arrival of the crew, when I can become fully present in the moment.
‘Climbing high above the valley floor unhindered by ropes, her body flowed up the rock face, every movement smooth, unthought but precise. Each hand, each foot falling effortlessly onto the hold. Energy flowed through her, she was connected to the rock, to the wind, to the world around her and in this moment she felt complete, nothing else mattered’
In my third year of a degree in Outdoor Studies, my dissertation was on the phenomenon of flow in rock climbers. This feeling of absolute connectedness to the world around them when climbing, to the extent that no thoughts pass through the mind. It doesn’t just occur in climbing, athletes in many sports report experiencing this phenomenon. Although it can be a rare state and difficult to achieve I discovered that for many climbers it was these moments that they chased, that kept them climbing. It made all the fearful moments worthwhile.
Nowadays, it’s harder than ever to tune out the world around us and tune into ourselves. We carry our social networks in our pockets with everyone just a text or an email away. So much of our communication is expected to be instantaneous. There isn’t the natural breathing time of carefully composing a letter and posting it which would have given things just a few years ago, and answers are often rushed and not thought out. For young people and adults we can be switched onto the digital world all hours of the day and night. It never sleeps. Because of this, I believe it is essential to find ways to disconnect. Getting your body moving is a great way to connect with your thoughts and release tension.
How does movement release tension?
Serotonin, a chemical that acts as a regulator transmitting signals that impact everything from memory to moo,d has been found to get a boost from exercise and that means the more serotonin surging through our bodies, the stronger our feelings of tranquility.
When moving outside, whether it’s rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing, I get a feeling of serenity carrying out movements my muscles find familiar and before I push my limits I will always try and warm up to the movements and find this peace. Once you figure out what form of movement you really enjoy, make time for it, even if it’s for just half an hour each day. Whichever activity you choose, find moments where you can participate in it simply for pleasure. Work on letting the distracting thoughts that pop up come and go and try to stay mindful only of that movement.
How can you encourage this state of connectedness with your body?
To start with, keep it simple. As you jog, focus on your breathing, the rhythmic movement in and out. Focus on feeling your muscles and limbs as you move them. This will help you begin to come aware of how your body occupies the space around it and will help you take ownership of your movements. Listen to the sounds of the birds, feel the wind on your face or in your hair, look at the colours of nature, notice the flowers, the leaves.
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