Right now, whether you're aware of it or not, your body is adjusting to meet the demands of the moment. For example, you may be shifting positions in your seat to get more comfortable while reading this blog.
Most of the time, however, we have no idea of what our body is doing or what micro messages it's communicating to us and to others. What’s miraculous about us as human beings, though, is that we have the ability to catch these movements and either adapt, ignore, resist, or move against them.
That's why movement awareness, or becoming mindful of our body's signals and actions, is so important. In fact, it can increase our intelligence, boost our mood, and even improve our communication with others. Here's what you need to know:
1. It can help you think more clearly.
Research shows that the brain can take cues from body movements to understand and solve complex problems. In 2009, University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras, along with Laura Thomas of Vanderbilt University, conducted a study on problem solving and body movement. They set out to test whether a person's ability to understand and problem solve could be influenced by how he or she moves.
The results showed that participants who were instructed to swing their arms back and forth (and thus become aware of their bodies' movements) were 40 percent more likely to solve a complex problem than those who simply stretched their arms one by one. “People tend to think that their mind lives in their brain, dealing in conceptual abstractions, very much disconnected from the body," Lleras said. "This emerging research is fascinating because it is demonstrating how your body is a part of your mind in a powerful way. The way you think is affected by your body and, in fact, we can use our bodies to help us think.”
2. It can help you stress less and feel happier.
Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, has done extensive research on how our body language can affect how we feel. In her TEDTalk, "Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are," Cuddy noted, “Power posing, such as raising the arms above the head as when a player scores a touchdown, increases testosterone and decreases cortisol, the stress hormone. Contracted movements, on the other hand, diminish your personal power and, in turn, your effectiveness.”
Practicing movement awareness can help you tune into when chronic, subconscious thinking patterns kick in. For example, you might notice your whole body becomes tense when you try to take control of a situation that you’d be better off letting go of. Or you might look down and see your leg shaking furiously, which could indicate that you are getting anxious or bored.
Start observing your body movements and breathe, move, lift your arms up and wave your hands, open up your chest real wide, and shake that tail feather. Watch your mood shift almost instantaneously.
3. It helps you improve your communication with others.
We all walk around with our own “billboard" that communicates messages about what we're thinking and feeling. For most of us, this is largely unconscious, whole-body communication. It can include vocal tones and inflections, physical gestures, postures, involuntary movements, breathing, pacing of speech, and numerous other subtle and not-so subtle signals.
If you broadcast mixed messages to those around you, you’ll get mixed messages in return. And the messages we broadcast on our billboard can mean the difference between success and failure, intimacy and isolation.
But when we're conscious of our body movements, we can then become aware of what we’re really feeling and communicating. We can start to connect more authentically with others.
Use movement awareness as a new tool to help you access your deepest truth in an efficient way and improve your thinking, your mood, and your interactions with yourself and others.