Emotions create motion and vice versa.
That’s what colors our lives and makes it memorable. In Latin, the word emotion, ’emotere’, literally means energy in motion. The dictionary tells us it is a physiological state of mind. However, it manifests itself through the body.
Emotions define and prompt our intimate and social relationships. They are the most powerful tools for your personal growth, often telling you if you are on the right track. Basically, what really matters is how you feel. You set your goals, search for a certain relationship and plan your activities due to simply feeling good.
I would like to take a closer look at how physical activity affects your emotions. In another words, how the state of body can influence and change the state of mind. Anatomy will help us to understand the process.
Neurons from the cortex, in reaction to the external world, communicate with the limbic system (in charge of mood and instinct) and the hypothalamus (chemically regulating the body’s internal environment-homeostasis), which sends signals via the autonomic nervous system and target organs, glands, muscles, and blood vessels. These structures in turn send signals back through the autonomic nervous system to the hypothalamus, limbic system, and the cortex. To make a complex story simple, signals from the brain in response to the external situation, make instant changes in the body and then signals from the body go back to the brain with their alternated state. For example, you let “it” go in your mind, you feel relief in your body. Another example is, bad news can make you sad, stressed and deprive your energy. In contrast, good news make you happy and energetic. When the body sends back the neural signals to the brain about its feelings, the brain, on top of the reaction to the external environment, has the information about its internal state and then sends new signals based on the received information.
But how does the physical activity affect our mental health and change our mood?
Physical activity promotes neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that induce feelings of calm and well-being. Exercising releases endorphins in the brain; physical activities help to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since our body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so does your mind. Moreover, physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine (pleasure hormone) and serotonin (happiness hormone) levels – all of which influence focus and attention. These hormones also energize your spirit and make you feel good.
How about the social aspect of exercising?
If you feel emotionally stressed, but you refuse to allow your body and mind to succumb to destroying feelings, then you go to your favorite exercise class, or just to the gym, or you have a session with your personal trainer. There you meet like-minded, goal-oriented, smiling, strong people, who are contagious with their happiness and drive. You distract yourself from the unpleasant feelings physically, mentally, and emotionally. Your body and mind have a positive wave from the inspiring vibe and you might find motivation or a solution to resolve your problems. In fact, you have no idea how many times my students have shared with me their initial reluctance to come to a session but their happiness and their sense of accomplishment at actually showing up.
Another suggestion is being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical well-being, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.
Also, cold showers have been proven to have an amazing effect on your well-being and health.You will be surprised at how embracing a cold water shower may improve your emotional resilience, immune system, and circulation. It reduces stress, relieves depression, speeds up muscle recovery, and stimulates weight loss just to name a few of its benefits. However, be careful when you first start practicing this. Initially, it may be preferable to start with a warm shower, then switch to five seconds of cold water, and then switch back and forth between the two, ultimately adding a cold shower time.
The process of expressing your emotional energy involves tuning into your body sensations and vice versa. It is powerful, dynamic and enlivening. You are able to influence and alter your mood, emotional state and mental health for the better via physical activity or time with nature. BODY-mind connection is a powerful tool that will help you live a happier and better quality of life.