In a world where the pressures of daily life often pull us in countless directions, finding joy in movement might seem like an elusive goal. How often have you come home from a day of work and just thought – “I really do not want to hit the gym.” I’ve had many days like this, however, the key is to create a routine. And in my head I keep telling myself that, beneath the hustle and bustle of our modern routines, lies a simple but profound truth: our bodies are meant to move, and within that movement, we unlock a reservoir of happiness that can brighten even the gloomiest of days. There are days where albeit my structured approach to work, (often due to the minimal amount of sleep I get – however that is a choice) I go to my wife and tell her I just don’t feel it. She then tells me to go running or hit the gym or do some kind of movement.That is what unleashes the power within. You see, from the exuberant skipping steps of childhood to the invigorating rhythm of a morning jog, each motion we engage in holds the potential to uplift our spirits and enrich our overall well-being. It really is that simple.
Think back to moments when you spontaneously danced around your living room to your favorite song, or when you took an impromptu walk in the park just to soak up the sun’s warmth. In those instances, you might have felt a surge of positive energy, a lightness in your step, and a broad smile stretching across your face. That’s the magic of movement at work – a harmonious interplay between your body and mind that can wash away stress, alleviate worries, and infuse your day with happiness.
As we dive deeper into the art of finding joy in movement, we’ll explore not only the biochemical wonders that occur within us (I believe it’s important to understand at least the fundamentals of this) but also the emotional landscapes that unfolds when we allow ourselves to fully embrace the power of motion. I’ve discussed this in a few other posts, however the neuroscience of neurotransmitters to the serenity of mindfulness practices to the camaraderie of moving together, I want to uncover the myriad ways movement can light up our lives.
So, join me on this journey of discovery, as we peel back the layers of inertia and hesitation and step into a world where each movement is a brushstroke on the canvas of our happiness. Together, we’ll unearth the secrets of finding joy in movement and learn how it can be a catalyst for living a life brimming with vitality, fulfillment, and an ever-present sense of delight.
How Movement Sparks Joy
I find the human body fascinating. Back in school I loved biology. I find that our bodies are intricate symphony of biological processes, and when we engage in movement, a symphony of chemical reactions takes place within us. And when we begin to understand this then we can utilize the power of our bodies to unleash the strength of our mind. To me it’s as if our bodies are equipped with an orchestra of neurotransmitters that play harmonious tunes of happiness and well-being. Among these neurotransmitters, endorphins are the stars of the show, often referred to as the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. They’re like little messengers of joy, dispatched by our brain in response to physical activity. That is really all it takes. Movement.
Hands down you have felt the feeling of exhilaration after a hearty workout session or a dance routine. This feeling is your brain’s way of rewarding you for your efforts. The rush of endorphins you experience doesn’t just help alleviate any physical discomfort; it also contributes to a sense of euphoria and contentment. It’s nature’s way of saying, “Well done, you’re taking care of yourself!” And I need that very often. And when I skip a day or two, I begin feeling groggy.
However, endorphins are not the only neurotransmitters at play when it comes to movement-induced joy. Serotonin, often referred to as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, also takes the spotlight. Serotonin plays a crucial role in regulating mood, sleep, and appetite. When our serotonin levels are in balance, we tend to feel happier, calmer, and more emotionally stable. Engaging in regular physical activity is a potent way to maintain healthy serotonin levels, thereby contributing to an overall positive emotional state.
Think about the serene bliss that accompanies a peaceful walk in nature (Shinrin Yoku) or the meditative flow of a yoga practice. These activities are known to boost serotonin production, leaving you with a sense of tranquility that lasts long after the movement has ceased. It’s as if each step, each stretch, and each pose becomes a brushstroke on the canvas of your emotional well-being.
Incorporating movement into your daily routine can become a self-fulfilling cycle of happiness. As you move, your brain responds by releasing these beneficial neurotransmitters, enhancing your mood and making you more likely to seek out movement again. It’s a beautiful feedback loop where each session of joyful activity reinforces your commitment to nurturing your body and soul.
So, the next time you lace up your sneakers for a run, hit the dance floor, or take a leisurely bike ride, know that you’re not just engaging your muscles; you’re igniting a cascade of chemical reactions that result in a brighter, more joyful you. The power to infuse your life with happiness lies in the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other and allowing your body to revel in the dance of neurotransmitters that movement sets in motion.
How awesome is that?
Embrace the Childlike Wonder of Movement
I hope that most of you can recall the days when the world was a playground and the sheer joy of movement was all that mattered? Those moments of carefree play were more than just youthful whims; they were windows into a world of unadulterated happiness. As we grow older, we often leave behind the carefree spirit of childhood, but the magic of playful movement remains a treasure waiting to be rediscovered. We condition children to become adults. We kill the child inside of us, but I believe that the miracle of movement is still within all of us, even when we are bound to our workplace, whether that is sitting in an office all day or organizing shelves.
I want you to think back to the time when you’d spin around until you were dizzy, jump off swings as high as you could, and race friends just for the thrill of it. These activities were more than mere games; they were celebrations of the body’s ability to move, jump, and twirl with a freedom that knew no bounds. I watch my children day in and day out. They are athletes through and through. They might not understand (yet) the intricacies of how the body works, but they use it, without much thought. And taking that picture, while we might not find ourselves on swing sets anymore, the essence of playfulness can be integrated into our adult lives in remarkable ways.
Take the experience of bouncing on a trampoline. The sensation of weightlessness, the laughter that bubbles forth, and the sensation of being suspended between earth and sky all evoke a profound sense of happiness. It’s as if the trampoline becomes a portal to a realm where gravity’s pull is softened, and the worries of adulthood are momentarily set aside. In those moments, you’re not just jumping; you’re embracing the sheer joy of movement with an unreserved heart. That is where I want us adults to get back to you. That “carelessness” of thought. Oh, I need to wear my business suit and be all uptight and professional because that is what is expected in society.
Reconnecting with the childlike wonder of movement is something we adults need to rekindle, and that also means engaging in activities that awaken our imagination. Ever tried geocaching? We’ve done it and I continue to have the app on my phone.If you don’t know what it is, it’s a modern-day treasure hunt that involves using GPS coordinates to find hidden containers, or “caches,” in various locations. Each find becomes a mini-adventure, reminding us that movement isn’t just about exercise; it’s a journey of exploration and discovery. It’s great with children.
As you explore the world of playful movement, you’ll find that it not only triggers a surge of happiness but also reconnects you with the spirit of curiosity and spontaneity. It’s a chance to shed the weight of adult responsibilities and dance with the freedom that comes from embracing movement for its own sake. Whether you’re rediscovering the joy of skipping rope, engaging in a friendly game of tag with your kids, or even trying your hand at the whimsical art of parkour, every leap, spin, and skip has the potential to spark the same wide-eyed wonder that defined our childhoods.
So, don’t be afraid to seek out activities that ignite your inner child. Embrace the twirl, the skip, and the jump, and let them be a gateway to a realm where movement is not just a means to an end but a celebration of life’s exuberance. Let your heart guide you to rediscover the joy that resides in each playful step, and watch as your world transforms into a canvas of unbridled happiness. Believe me. It doesn’t mean you should be childish, but you should embrace that inner child. All of us. Male or Female.
The Mind-Body Connection
In the midst of our fast-paced lives, where multitasking has become a virtue (and I know I multitask a lot), finding a moment of stillness can feel like a distant dream. Yet, within the realm of movement lies a powerful avenue to not only engage our bodies but also cultivate mindfulness – a state of serene awareness that can transform the way we experience life. This connection is something I have learned over the years through my wife and I talk about it often, also within my articles.
You see, the world of mindful movement, is where each step, each stretch, and each breath becomes a form of meditation in motion. Activities like yoga, tai chi, and mindful walking offer a sanctuary from the noise of our thoughts, inviting us to tune into the present moment with gentle intention. And I know that many of you will say, “yes, I love in the moment”, but in reality your not. Many of us are not.
One activity that embraces the mind-body connection is Yoga (not all the fancy schmaltzy influencers stuff on Instagram and co), with its centuries-old roots, encapsulates the essence of mindful movement. As you transition from one pose to another, your focus turns inward, aligning your breath with your movements. This integration of breath and posture creates a harmony that transcends the physical realm, weaving a tapestry of tranquility that envelops your entire being. I came to Yoga through my wife. I do not do it as regularly as I did a few years back, but for all those that think it’s crap – give it a try. When you do Yoga in its true form, each transition carried out is done with conscious awareness. The rhythm of your breath serves as an anchor, grounding you in the experience and dissolving the distractions that often clutter the mind. Within this mindful movement, you’re not just stretching your body; you’re stretching your capacity for presence and inner peace.
Look towards the East and at Tai chi, with its slow and graceful movements, is another exquisite example of mindful motion. I’ve never really done Tai chi (my in-laws have), but rooted in Chinese tradition, tai chi embodies the concept of “moving meditation.” I believe that as you flow through the sequence of movements, each one is an embodiment of balance and harmony, you’re letting go of worries and preoccupations. Tai chi becomes a form of moving artistry, a dance between yin and yang, that culminates in a sense of centeredness and calm. Something still on my bucket list, but I wanted to reference it for the purpose of this article.
And then there’s mindful walking – what I have adapted as Shinrin Yoku, a practice that transforms the simple act of walking into a meditation. Just stroll through a park (in our case the woods), with your attention fully engaged in each footfall, the sensation of the ground beneath you, and the rhythm of your breath. Mindful walking offers a respite from the rush of life, allowing you to immerse yourself in the present moment and rediscover the beauty that surrounds you. Engaging in this is not about “just walking” – it’s about honoring your body and mind in their current state. It’s an opportunity to listen to your body’s whispers, to breathe life into your movements, and to create a space where your inner chatter can finally find a moment of silence.
Integrate mindful movement into your day. You can cultivate a profound sense of self-awareness that extends beyond the mat or practice space. The mindfulness that you nurture while moving can seamlessly translate into your everyday life, enabling you to approach challenges with greater equanimity, connect with your surroundings more deeply, and savor the simple joys that often go unnoticed.
So, whether you’re flowing through a yoga sequence, gracefully practicing tai chi, or simply walking mindfully through your neighborhood, remember that movement can be a gateway to mindfulness. It’s a chance to synchronize your body and mind, to embark on a journey of inner exploration, and to discover the boundless peace that arises when you allow each movement to become a moment of presence.
I know that sometimes you just need your own space. However, while the solace of solitary movement is a beautiful experience, there’s a unique and exhilarating joy that comes from moving in harmony with others. Engaging in group activities creates a tapestry of shared experiences that not only uplifts your individual spirit but also weaves a vibrant sense of community and connection. And we as humans are just that, relationship animals. We are weaved like that.
Let me ask you this – think back to the last time you joined a group fitness class, participated in a team sport, or went for a group hike. Beyond the physical exertion, these activities had a way of fostering a profound sense of togetherness, no? How did it make you feel?
Participating in team sports amplifies this sense of connection. Whether it’s soccer, basketball, or volleyball, team sports offer a unique blend of competition, collaboration, and celebration. You’re not just working toward a common goal; you’re sharing victories, supporting each other through challenges, and forging bonds that extend beyond the field or court. That doesn’t mean that individual sports like Tennis and Swimming are useless, far from that notion, but I want you to understand the connective aspect in nurturing our soul in movement together with others.
Moving together isn’t just about physical proximity; it’s about the energy exchange that happens when individuals come together with a shared purpose. The synergy that emerges fosters a deep sense of belonging and acceptance (and don’t get me wrong, it’s not about “satisfying” others – far from that actually), reminding us that we’re all connected by our desire to experience the richness of life through movement.
Beyond the shared experiences, moving together also offers a support system that can bolster your commitment to staying active. When you’re part of a group, you’re less likely to skip a workout or give in to the lure of inertia. The sense of accountability that comes from knowing others are counting on your presence can be a powerful motivator, keeping you engaged and inspired to move consistently.
Do something together. That easy.
Turning Challenges into Triumphs
This article is purely about diving into the realm of movement-induced joy, hence, it’s important to acknowledge that the path isn’t always paved with ease. Life’s demands, personal doubts, and external obstacles can sometimes (or often times, depending on you) stand in the way of our quest to embrace movement and its accompanying happiness. However, every challenge presents an opportunity for growth, and every barrier can be transformed into a stepping stone toward triumph.
One of the most common barriers to regular movement is the perpetual time crunch that defines our modern lives. Juggling work, family, and personal commitments can make it challenging to find dedicated time for physical activity. Yet, rather than succumbing to the pressure of scarcity, consider this an invitation to craft a movement routine that aligns with your unique schedule. There are 24 hours in every day. Hence, no excuse.
However, as easy as I put that, let us look at it differently. Begin by setting achievable goals. Instead of aiming for a two-hour workout every day, start with shorter, more manageable sessions that fit into your day. Whether it’s a brisk 15-minute walk during your lunch break or a quick yoga session before bed, these bite-sized bursts of movement can add up over time and become an integral part of your routine.
Another barrier that often surfaces is the shadow of self-doubt. It’s easy to get caught up in thoughts like “I’m not fit enough” or “I don’t have the right skills.” But remember, every journey begins with a single step, and progress is built through consistent effort. Embrace a growth mindset that welcomes challenges and setbacks as opportunities to learn and improve.
If you’re new to exercise, consider seeking guidance from professionals who can provide tailored advice and support. A personal trainer, a fitness coach, or even online resources can offer a roadmap to help you navigate the initial hurdles and build confidence as you progress.
Financial considerations can also present a barrier, especially when it comes to gym memberships or specialized equipment. However, movement doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag. Explore low-cost or free alternatives such as outdoor activities, body weight exercises, or online workout videos. Your living room, local park, or nearby trails can become your personal playgrounds for movement, reminding you that you don’t need expensive equipment to embrace the joy of staying active.
And ultimately, the one I find bogs down most people in their heads, the most insidious barrier of all – is the fear of failure. It’s easy to be deterred by the idea of not reaching your goals or not living up to expectations. However, failure is a natural part of any journey, and it’s through these moments that we learn, adapt, and ultimately grow stronger. Shift your perspective from fearing failure to embracing it as a stepping stone toward success. Every setback can be reframed as an opportunity to refine your approach and uncover insights that you might have missed otherwise. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, focus on what you’ve learned and how you can adjust your path moving forward. The joy of movement lies not only in the destination but also in the journey itself (*cough* be mindful) – the moments of perseverance, self-discovery, and the realization that every effort, no matter how small, contributes to your overall well-being.
As you navigate the landscape of movement, remember that every barrier is a chance for triumph. Embrace the challenges, learn from the setbacks, and keep your eyes on the horizon of your happiness. By transforming obstacles into opportunities, you’ll pave the way for a journey that’s not only joyful but also brimming with the satisfaction of overcoming adversity.
Finding Your Movement Bliss
The last section I want to touch on is finding your movement. The journey to finding joy in movement is as diverse and individual as the people embarking on it. Each person’s unique preferences, interests, and physical capabilities shape the path they choose to tread. What I may find awesome, may be completely idiotic to you. In this last section, I want to dive into the realm of exploration, encouraging you to uncover the activities that resonate with your soul and ignite your passion for movement.
The beauty of movement is that it encompasses a vast spectrum of possibilities, many of which we have discussed above. From the gentle grace of dance to the invigorating rush of running, from the meditative flow of yoga to the exhilaration of team sports – there’s a movement activity for every inclination and aspiration. The world has so much to offer.
Whether you yearn for the thrill of the great outdoors with activities like rock climbing, hiking, and kayaking – fusing physical exertion with the exhilaration of exploring natural landscapes or you’re drawn to the serene practice of swimming. The gentle glide through the water, the rhythmic strokes, and the soothing sensation of being enveloped by the aquatic embrace create an almost meditative experience – every moment of movement is unique. Maybe it’s the world of martial arts, where movement is an art form intertwined with discipline and self-discovery. Perhaps it’s karate, judo, or taekwondo? The practice of this movement becomes a journey of self-mastery, a dance of empowerment that extends far beyond the dojo.
Either way, as you embark on the journey of discovering your movement bliss, keep an open heart and a curious spirit. We tell our children the same. Try new activities, even those that might seem out of your comfort zone. Every step you take toward exploring movement is a step toward uncovering facets of yourself you might not have known existed. Remember, there’s no single “right” way to move. The key is to find activities that resonate with your passions, values, and physical capabilities. Whether you’re drawn to the meditative rhythm of a solitary jog, the high-energy atmosphere of a dance class, or the camaraderie of team sports, the joy of movement is yours to claim. Hence, set aside any preconceived notions and embrace the adventure of movement. Allow your body to be your guide, and let your heart lead the way. In each step, each stretch, and each leap, you’ll discover a profound sense of connection – to yourself, to your passions, and to the boundless wellspring of joy that movement holds.
Embrace the Journey, Revel in the Joy
So, that is it. That is what I wanted to dispense today. We’ve ventured through the diverse landscapes of movement-induced happiness, however I believe that now one truth has become abundantly clear: movement is not merely a physical activity but a transformative journey that has the power to illuminate our lives in ways we might never have imagined.
Give it some thought and every time you lace up your sneakers, embark on a hike, or engage in a yoga practice, remember you’re embarking on a journey of self-discovery. You’re acknowledging the symphony of chemical reactions that awaken joy within you, the wellspring of delight that springs forth from each playful skip, and the serenity that accompanies mindful movement. You’re also tapping into the energy of connection, weaving bonds with others who share your love for movement, and breaking through barriers that once stood in your way.
So make sure you get out of your chair, your office, your room where you sit and remember that this journey isn’t about perfection or comparison – it’s about embracing the unique dance that your body and soul long to express. Every step you take, whether large or small, is a step toward a healthier, happier you. Every time you choose to move, you’re choosing to honor your body, your mind, and your innate capacity for joy.
Therefore I encourage you to embrace the joy of movement not as an obligation but as a gift – a gift you give yourself each time you engage in joyful motion. Let movement be your sanctuary, your release, and your source of renewal. Whether you find solace in solo activities or exhilaration in group endeavors, whether you’re seeking a mindful retreat or a heart-pounding adventure, movement is your canvas to paint with the colors of your emotions and desires. I make my children move and they make me move. Let’s move together.
With every stride, every sway, and every leap, let’s continue to uncover the happiness that resides within us, waiting to be awakened through the magic of movement.
Make it happen.
- Ratey, J. J., & Hagerman, E. (2008). Spark: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. Little, Brown.
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2021). Yoga for anxiety and depression. Harvard Medical School.
- McNeely, M. L., Campbell, K. L., Rowe, B. H., & Klassen, T. P. (2006). Swimming for asthma in children and adolescents. The Cochrane Library