Move your body, shift your perspective
To open the body and get the energy flowing.
How many times during the day do you instinctively feel the need to get up, stretch and walk away from your computer, laptop, smart phone? (Sometimes we listen to that instinct, sometimes we don’t).
It's usually when we've been ruminating and re-writing an email 20 times over and it still doesn’t sound right. We know we need to get up, walk away, move and come back to it.
We spend most of our day at work in a mind-only state. We’re thinking, analyzing, problem solving, talking, listening, responding, giving opinions, advising, making decisions. We’re drinking coffee to keep us focused (and awake). We’re grabbing a Pret sandwich on the go (or eating sandwiches as graciously as possible whilst in a working lunch). We’re ignoring any aches, pains or niggles in our body because we're too busy to give it much thought. Our body is really just the vessel that gets us from one meeting to the next.
We may fit in a lunch time gym or yoga session, but that’s usually done in a rush while our mind is elsewhere thinking about the day’s events or what else we need to do. We’re operating from the neck up most working days.
I talk a lot about body wisdom and the mind-body connection. Sometimes this is hard to articulate.
This is because body wisdom is unspoken. We can describe it by the feeling of butterflies in the stomach when we’re excited. Or a nervous stomach churn or nausea before a big presentation. We feel a tightness in the chest when we’re asked to do something that goes against our belief system, our values or just doesn’t feel right. I've felt this at work in the past when I was advised to do something a certain way but I felt it wasn’t the right approach...but I went with it anyway. My body was always right.
Studies now tell us that our brain isn’t our only form of intelligence. According to food scientist, Heribert Watzke in his TED talk 'The brain in your gut', we have over 100 million neurons in the gut (100 billion in the human brain), as many as there are in the brain of a cat. Our gut is connected to our limbic system, the brain and gut speak to each other and make decisions.
Most of this communication travels through something called the vagus nerve. A huge nerve that is connected from the base of our brain and travels down through the chest, connecting to most of our vital organs along the way, down to the abdomen. This sends signals and hormones between our gut and (head) brain communicating things like; when it's safe for the body to 'rest-and-digest', if you're hungry, or full, or if your body needs to go into fight or flight mode. It influences our emotional state, including anxiety and depression and related symptoms like brain fog.
I know that when I’ve been sitting too long, or I've had days or weeks without really moving my body properly, my mind starts to get into a funk, I feel slower and stagnated. I eat more than I need to, usually unhealthy things that satisfy my pleasure receptors in the short term, but make the gut more sluggish in the long term. I worry more about the little things, less able to see the big picture and my ability to think creatively diminishes.
Yoga guru, BKS Iyengar, said "if you lift your armpits, you'll never get depressed", meaning that if you lift your arms it helps to open your chest, take in more oxygen, which then in turn, calms and renergises the system (through the vagus nerve I'm discovering!) and affects the mind.
Social Psychologist, Amy Cuddy, talks about ‘power poses’ to increase our feelings of confidence.
Life as we know it is busy and we don’t always find time to work-out, go to yoga or a class. I try to move my body everyday, even if it’s some simple Qi gong style warm-up stretches in the morning or at some point during the day.
So how do you get you and your teams out of their head's and into their body, accessing your body and mind intelligence?
Take coaching, one-to-ones or meetings whilst walking outdoors, check-in occasionally to see you’re feeling in the body (placing your hand on your abdomen or your heart can help).
Combine intellectual, creative thinking and problem solving with practices that help people connect with their body during leadership programs and off-sites.
Ask ‘How does that feel to you? instead of/as well as ‘what do you think?’
Eat foods that encourage good gut brain health (fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, daily probiotics). Take time to eat properly in a space that allows you listen to the gut brain signals of when were full.
Move regularly. Get out of your seat, go to an empty meeting room and stretch – send blood moving back around your body
Breathe. Visualise breathing into your abdomen, your heart area, out through your arms and legs.
Move, connect with your body and notice the shift in your perspective, and you and your team's potential.
If you’re interested in learning more about practices to connect the mind-body, coaching and programs, do get in touch.