By Imogen Short
“Movement is life,” says Brad Pitt to the scared family hiding in their apartment, just before they’re ambushed by zombies. I’m not a huge fan of horror films, but I often think about this line from World War Z. It’s true of so many aspects of our lives, not just running from zombies (whether literal or metaphorical).
Standing still implies stagnation, while movement indicates momentum. And it doesn’t have to be physical. It can be about hope for the future. Or about a sense of opportunity that moves you to think or act. The drive to keep pushing forwards, even when it feels like you’re being ambushed from all sides.
So, next time you’re faced with a challenge or you’re not making the progress you thought, here are a few things you can do to keep moving:
Move your breath.
We’re pretty lucky that breathing is an unconscious physiological act otherwise we’d be constantly absorbed by our need to breathe. But there’s a lot to be said for overriding the unconsciousness of breathing to really expound the benefits of a full breath of fresh air.
Why? Science tells us that increased breathing sends a signal to our brain to activate the sympathetic nervous systems, which fires up our stress hormones, heart rate and anxiety. On the flip side, slower breathing induces the parasympathetic response, which promotes relaxation and mental clarity.
How? One of the simplest ways to do this is to use the 4-7-8 technique, follow this breathing pattern:
Empty the lungs of air.
Breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds.
Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds.
Exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds.
Repeat 3-4 times.
And if you’re serious about building breathing techniques into your physical training plan, check out the Wim Hoff Method. Not for the faint-hearted!
Move your mind
“Get out of your head and get into your body. Think less and feel more.” - Osho
Stress can often get stuck in your body and manifest as tension in your muscles (and mind). Meditation provides the opportunity to release that tension by grounding us in the present. It reconnects us with our bodies and the world around us. It reminds us that we’re human, that we’re alive and that we are unique and individual entities connected to a larger whole.
The benefits of regular meditation are significant: reduced stress and anxiety, better concentration and focus, and lower blood pressure. If you’re new to meditation, try the Headspace website – it’s full of insights, tips, and meditation sessions you can try at your own pace.
Mobilise your body
Even if you only have 10 minutes to spare, it’s all you need to change the way you start your day. As a runner, I start my day with a set routine that helps me move my muscles and loosen my joints.
North Face runner, Vlad Ixel, has a great mobility routine here.
It’s important to make sure you’re moving throughout the day, especially if you’re desk bound. Contrary to popular opinion, sitting at your desk isn’t as awful as you might think… so long as you ‘interrupt’ your sitting at regular intervals and don’t continue to sit throughout your leisure time.
In his recent interview with NPR, Daniel Lieberman, a professor in the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard, introduces the concept of interrupted sitting:
“Just getting up every once in a while, every 10 minutes or so just to go to the bathroom or pet your dog or make yourself a cup of tea, even though you're not spending a lot of energy, you're turning on your muscles.”
Move your creativity
Walking has all kinds of health benefits, but it also has huge mental benefits too, including mindfulness, alertness, and creativity. A 2014 study from Stanford University also found that people are much more creative when they are walking rather than sitting.
So, it’s no surprise that some of the most creative minds in history are known for taking long walks each day to help their thinking. Steve Jobs was famous for his walking meetings, while Beethoven and Charles Dickens used walking to stoke their creativity.
Move your body
When faced with any kind of big decision, dilemma, or creative obstacle (usually the dreaded blank page), the first thing I do is put my trail shoes on and get out onto the trails. Free from distraction and immersed in nature, it easy for the mind to wander and dissolve the confines of my office. Afterall, what better way to do some ‘blue-sky thinking’ than under the blue sky (… although admittedly sometimes grey).
Running has several well-documented health benefits, including heart health, stress reduction, focus and memory recall. It’s also so good for you that scientists kind of think of it as the closest thing to a miracle drug.
Move your soul.
Movement doesn’t need to be physical. In fact, some of the biggest movements we need when we’re stuck come from within us. Hope. Optimism. Connection. These took a hit in 2020 but it made us remember how important they are to us – as human, as a tribe and as a community. We are hard-wired for emotional connection. To each other, to the earth and to a sense of purpose.
Purpose and connection mean different things to different people, but if you need to make movement in this area of your life, try these nine things.
At the end of the day, whether you believe we’re made of atoms, stardust, or energy, we are all made of movement. And movement is life.