Designed to Move
Humanity is part of nature. It sounds an obvious thing to say but, judging from the global trend of increasing urbanisation and tendency to live our lives away from nature, it’s worth reminding ourselves. We are designed to move, to cultivate. When we move, our mind and body function at full capacity. Also, we are more relaxed and the nervous system is better able to move smoothly through the gears to support the spectrum of emotional states we experience, from rest to alertness to responsiveness and active engagement.
Without movement, there is no connecting in any meaningful sense and the fruits of our emotional labour wither on the vine of possibility. Movement is not about a jog in the park or a visit to the gym. Without the foundation of movement, the performance of physical exercise can be an empty gesture that easily becomes misaligned with the fundamental purpose of our existence. The body can become addicted to the brain chemicals released when physical activity becomes perfunctory and, ironically, this misalignment can be just as harmful to our wellbeing as any other form of addiction.
“I contend that a brain could not think without motor functions.”Moshe Feldenkrais
Here, movement is about the alignment of body, mind and nature to live a full and rewarding life. In other words, movement in the 21st century, like proximity, and connectedness has come to mean something that beckons our attention and action. Movement is readiness for change and willingness to see and experience life from a point of view other than the one we have now. Movement in this content also includes attunement, inert reactiveness to each other as well as the various cycles that our body needs to sustain health and wellness, including rest.
When we rest our cells regenerate and deep systems in our body get to work keeping our immune system in tip-top condition. To move, therefore, is to heal; to adapt and exercise our choices. Movement stimulates the brain and promotes neuroplasticity giving us smoother cognitive function as opposed to the hazy sensation of brain fog. In places like Japan, forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) is a popular pass-time where people spend time immersed in nature. As well as the obvious psychological benefits there is good scientific evidence that contact with the organisms and microbes found in natural habitats support emotional health and boosts the immune system. The evidence also points to benefits such as improved respiratory and cardiovascular health which shouldn’t really come as a great surprise.
“Run and become
Become and run.
Run to succeed in the outer world.
Become to proceed in the inner world.”Sri Chinmoy
If global urbanisation has made it increasingly difficult to move in this way, there has been a societal cost in terms of mental health and wellbeing in general. By 2030 the world is projected to have over 40 “uber” cities each with populations in excess of 20 million and by 2050 66% of the world population will live in an urban setting. As of today, we are already spending too much time indoors and leading sedentary lives due to a whole range of socio-economic factors. Added to this, the proliferation of digital platforms for both work and recreation are proving to be a double-edged sword in this context in so much as they present both opportunities for and challenges to our ability to move.
Movement is no longer a given in today’s society, it has to be intentionally cultivated and nurtured. We need to make spaces for it and pay diligent attention to the factors that promote it’s growth and spread. More specifically we need to understand how these factors have shifted the wellbeing conversation and closed the gap between institutions and communities. Now it’s possible and increasingly common to go for a bike ride in your own home with a group of “fellow-travellers” from all over the world. We can join on-line choirs, learn and work wherever we are, and even enjoy a fantasy life in virtual worlds as avatars. So, with these 21st opportunities becoming more abundant the bottom line is, what moves you?