5 Ways to Find Joy in Movement, No ‘Should’ or Shame Allowed

1. Think back to a favorite thing you did when you were a kid.

My home office is equipped with a little trampoline for my use. I used to run on it, but holy cow, it got old fast.

When I was told that rebounding, which is the more mature term for jumping on a trampoline, can do a lot of wonderful things for the body, I was pleased to give it another shot. I had no clue that simply bouncing on it like a kid at a trampoline park could make me feel happy, warm, weary, and clear-headed all at the same time until recently.

When you were a kid, did you have any particular activities that you enjoyed doing just because they were enjoyable? Playing in the sprinklers, dancing to music videos, or bouncing a ball off the side of your house are all great ways to spend a summer afternoon. Try it out once more while channeling you from when you were a kid. Imagine how much more you would get out of life if you didn’t spend so much time worrying about looking foolish and feeling old.

2. Get a friend interested in it, even if they are far away.

2019 will mark the 25th year since my friend L. and I first became acquainted with one another. Unfortuitously, we have spent the majority of that time living in different states and always saying things like, “If we only lived in the same town, we would walk/swim/try new things together every day.”

The presence of friends has a way of boosting one’s motivation while simultaneously reducing feelings of self-consciousness. L. and I make it a point to walk “together” as much as possible, even though there is a distance of 1,053 miles between us (San Antonio, Texas to Athens, Georgia). We console each other when one of us is experiencing bad weather, wax poetic when the skies clear, and share images that we took while walking on the trail or sidewalk.

To keep ourselves motivated to continue venturing out into the world, we make sure to regularly remind one another of how wonderful it is to have our feet firmly planted on the ground.

Would you have the guts to try something different if you had a friend by your side? Find a friend, and the two of you devise a strategy. If you aren’t enjoying yourself, go on to the next activity.

3. Look for an activity that makes you feel free.

My experience of pushing a stroller while running was one of the most emancipating and liberating things I’ve ever done. I was so accustomed to pushing a stroller that when I didn’t have it with me, I felt like I was walking on eggshells. Where are my arms supposed to go? 

Those days of pushing a stroller behind me are behind me, as is jogging for the time being. When I was teaching the streets of my neighborhood to an infant who thrived on the rhythm and sunshine, I used to get as much joy out of it as I do today. However, I don’t get nearly as much fun out of it as I did back then.

Being a new mother, starting a new career, or finding yourself in a poor financial situation are just some of the life events that might leave you feeling helpless or trapped. Even when there isn’t much of a shift going on, we might get stuck in a rut.

When I was feeling imprisoned at home with a child and postpartum anxiety, running helped me get out of the house and out of my thoughts at the same time.

Is there a way that you can make some room for yourself and the people around you? Look for areas with plenty of open space, sunshine, and clean air before you make your move. Then you are free to move.

4. Yoga may be practiced anywhere and by anyone (including kids)

In all seriousness, Joy has been my yoga instructor on and off for the past five years. We genuinely practice yoga together. I have a built-in reminder that “joy” is still a component of the yoga practice, so even when it hurts, even when it brings up rage and trauma, I can continue to do yoga.

My girls’ interest in yoga and their willingness to participate brought a new dimension of happiness into my life a few years ago. I’m not the kind of parent who takes their kids to the playground and makes them do things like race each other or go down the enormous slide. On the other hand, I do make an effort to practice yoga even while my kids are running around, and they invariably join me. If you think a wobbling 3-year-old child in Tree Pose is cute, you haven’t seen anything until now.

Children are living evidence that yoga may be practiced outside of a traditional classroom setting. You may not realize it, but you are already practicing yoga just by the way you sit on the floor, how you stretch after a nap, and how you widen your stance to invoke power.

If you are interested in the practice but do not have the funds or the self-assurance to enroll in a class, you can borrow a book from the library or look for a video on YouTube.

5. Swimming without doing laps of the pool

I spent most of my high school years in the pool in a friend’s backyard, although we didn’t actually “swim.” We were goofing off, floating, and flipping off the diving board while ignoring the need to protect ourselves from the sun. If I could go back to those times right now, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to do so.

But what about swimming as a form of exercise? I used to believe that my swimming didn’t “count” unless I was going laps with the perfect crawl stroke and maintaining a steady breathing rhythm. It was a delightful experience to lazily float about the pool while on vacation and gaze up at the sky.

It was a waste of time. And what exactly is the problem with that?

My kids are still little, but I’ve found that playing in the kiddie pool with them is one of the most enjoyable aspects of swimming. We all act as if we are characters from Moana, and by late afternoon, we are all thoroughly exhausted and ready for some slumber.

Feel at ease while you’re in the water yet unsure what to do with yourself once you’re there? Do whatever it is that makes you happy, whether that be playing, floating, bobbing, or even doing a headstand.

It has been a struggle for the entirety of my life to engage in the things that I should do for my health, fitness, and weight loss. I have decided to take on a new goal, which is to engage in activities that do not steal my delight.

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