How to make movement mindful

Moving our bodies in a way that feels good both physically and mentally often lacks encouragement in our society. Toxic diet culture places heavy emphasis on rapid weight loss, and strenuous movement is portrayed as the right way to exercise. The damaging notion persists that, unless you’re hot and dripping with sweat, your workout isn’t effective. 

What is mindful movement?

Typically, the intentions behind mindful types of movement revolve around releasing pent-up energy, de-stressing, and connecting with ourselves – ultimately fostering a deeper sense of well-being.

While forceful and agonising workouts are often glorified on social media, we have the power to detach from and unfollow such content and experiment with new forms of exercise that actually excite us. We need to stop punishing our bodies because, in reality, the stress of it all harms us. Achieving our fitness goals can be approached with gentleness and kindness. 

Mindful movement = tuning into what feels comfortable and challenging in a positive way within our bodies.

Engaging in mindful movement can offer profound benefits, proving to be both more enjoyable and sustainable in the long term for many. We can take our time to explore what truly feels good for our unique bodies. It’s important to recognise that everyone has different preferences and thrives at varying levels of intensity. 

What comes naturally and feels exhilarating to your friend could be your workout nightmare. We might worry that we are ‘getting it wrong’ when we stop comparing our exercise regimes to others and start engaging in more intuitive movements that are friendly to our bodies. For many of us, this feeling stems from being conditioned to believe that exercise must be competitive and painful. However, this harmful notion is one that we must actively question and reject in order to cultivate a healthier relationship with movement and our bodies. 

If the idea of incorporating soft, thoughtful, and pleasurable exercise into your life appeals to you, the list below offers a selection of movement styles for you to try out. What kind of movement naturally draws your interest?


Brisk walking

Walking is one of the most effective and accessible forms of exercise – it requires no expert knowledge and is free. Despite being widely dismissed as not challenging enough, many have effectively improved their physical and mental health through consistent walking. A simple 20 minutes a day can improve cardiovascular fitness, reduce excess body fat, boost muscle build, and ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

Walking can be a mindful activity, enabling you to immerse yourself in your surroundings, connect with Mother Nature, and practice mindful breathing. Choosing a serene or nature-based location for our brisk walks can enhance our experiences. It’s wise to plan out a route in advance, knowing and visualising the walk beforehand, so that when you set out, you can simply enjoy the experience without worrying about directions.

Deepening your breath while walking is a great way to bring more peace and vitality to your body, allowing your lungs to expand as you inhale and your belly to fall as you exhale. During your walk, try directing your attention to the five senses: touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste. 

Gently find things that feel good to focus on. If there is a particular sense you enjoy observing more than others, put more time into immersing yourself in that sensation. For example, if you’re in a park and birds are singing beautifully and it brings a smile to your face, I encourage you to keep your attention on this heartwarming feeling. Perhaps take it one step further and try to find a bird in a tree and watch it sing for a moment. 

Don’t be afraid to make stops on your walk when you feel drawn to pause and appreciate nature or engage in conversation with a stranger about the scenery you’re admiring! Exercise doesn’t need to be all-encompassing; it can be an experience that enables you to grasp a sense of the bigger picture, expanding your imagination and fostering a deeper connection with the world and people around you!


Cycling

Similarly to walking, biking is easy to take up and its benefits are promising. It can not only enhance your balance and coordination but also boost cardiovascular fitness. Additionally, it’s a low-impact exercise option, effectively alleviating stress on your joints.

Cycling adventures are a great way to mindfully explore the world around you – with every pedal through different landscapes, there is so much to feast your eyes on. Setting a clear intention before embarking on your ride can significantly improve your experience, enabling you to focus. While our thoughts may wander, this intention serves as a guide, anchoring your mind to a positive focal point. Whether it’s staying attuned to your breath, showing kindness to your legs, or simply breathing deeply, intentions guide your journey. 

Additionally, it can help to have a clear goal or destination in mind. For example, cycling to a friend’s house with a treat from a local café, conquering a challenging hill, or riding to your favourite nature spot. This can enhance the sense of purpose and motivation during your ride.

The essence of mindful movement lies in maintaining a connection with your body. Thus, it’s essential you attentively listen to the signals it sends. Go easier if something feels out of balance and overwhelming. The aim is not to push yourself to extremes but rather to challenge yourself in a way that feels attainable and fair on your body. Release the outdated notion that you must go hard or go home, and instead, prioritise a comfortable challenge. 


Dancing

Dancing not only provides a great cardio workout but also offers a sense of release and self-expression. Many individuals find this type of movement deeply empowering! Dance not only grants you freedom of movement but also enables you to express yourself in an exciting and experimental way. It provides us with the opportunity to play, which can be truly liberating. Allow yourself to escape into a dream world as you dance intuitively!

Create a playlist filled with your favourite happy and upbeat songs. Find a private space and, if you feel confident, invite your friends over to have a 30-minute dance session. Let your body naturally move to the rhythm of the music.

Dancing with others often sparks an instant and authentic connection. The shared rhythm and gradual synchronisation cultivate a profound sense of togetherness. If the idea of dancing with others resonates with you but you feel shy to initiate a dance party with your friends, consider starting with a dance class.

If you initially feel self-conscious about moving your body, vocalising positive affirmations before a dance workout can help you loosen up and silence any self-critical thoughts.

Try these positive affirmations:

  • I let go of shame and embrace what feels right in the moment.
  • I am grateful to exist in this body.
  • I move my body in ways that feel good to me.
  • I cherish my unique self-expression.
  • I connect deeply with my body as I dance.
  • I release the fear of being cringey and embrace being playful.

Hula hooping

When hula hooping, concentration is paramount. Keeping the hoop whipping around requires precise timing and rhythmic movement. If you get distracted, you will be drawn back into the present moment, as you’re likely to lose control of the hoop.

Channelling your attention on your body’s position relative to the hoop naturally allows you to forget about the worries that commonly occupy your mind throughout the day. Many individuals find having to get the circular motion just right soothes their anxious minds.

It’s liberating to focus on the present moment and release the burden of negative thoughts. Plus, you can reap the physical rewards of a stronger core, enhanced balance, and greater lower back strength.

Tips for those struggling to maintain the hoop’s momentum:

  • Wear fitted clothing – avoid baggy t-shirts and shorts and instead try leggings and a tight vest.
  • Initiate the movement by circling your waist on your dominant side – right for right-handers, left for left-handers – this will allow for a smooth and natural movement.
  • Try a weighted hula hoop – the added weight provides momentum which helps keep the hoop spinning.

We can move our bodies in ways that not only do good but feel good. Mindful movement gives us a chance to become more aware of our bodies and minds and this can be truly grounding. Living in the present moment makes us calmer and happier human beings. 

Whether we are attuned to the sensations coursing through us, the world around us, or the companionship of those exercising alongside us, it’s uncomplicated to sense our mental well-being improving as our minds align with our movements. 

It’s important to remember that workouts should not be perceived as punishment for our bodies; instead, they should be embraced as a means to care for and nourish ourselves.

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Written by Alessia Sutherberry
Alessia is a coach, content creator and writer who cares deeply about making people feel good about themselves. She helps people understand where their self-limiting beliefs stem from so they can foster self-awareness and self-love.
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Written by Alessia Sutherberry
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