New Year, New You: How Movement Can Facilitate Change
Written by Erica Hornthal (psychotherapist/CEO of Chicago Dance Therapy)
With the Jewish New Year upon us, it’s time for reflection, introspection and evaluation of what was and what will be. Many of us have our own methods for bringing in the New Year and while they may be habits or traditions, there are other ways in addition to our usual traditions to welcome and encourage growth throughout the year. Consider how our own bodies can help alleviate fears and anxieties, facilitate change and encourage self-acceptance and forgiveness.
Breathing creates room for better decision making
Taking a moment to tune in to your breath can make the difference between a hasty decision and a logical, well thought out plan. Stepping away from a situation and allowing for breathing room encourages perspective and evaluation. Incorporating 3 deep breaths (in through the nose, out through the mouth) slows down your heart rate and quiets the mind, leaving room to make a sound, reasonable decision.
Flexibility in the body creates flexibility in the mind
While it’s not necessary to master a perfect split or how to place your leg behind your head, flexibility in moderation does create greater mobility of the mind. Consider what being a flexible person means in terms of work, social life and family planning. This often correlates to an ability to “roll with the punches” or “go with the flow.” Rigidity in planning can lead to more uptight, tense individuals. Incorporating stretches into your daily life will quickly lead to greater physical flexibility and allow you to let go of things that you can’t control while leaving more time for the little things that really matter.
Connection to our core correlates to greater sense of self
Working on our connection to our core muscles strengthens emotional ties to our values, beliefs and identity. This doesn’t mean doing sit-ups or planks, although that certainly doesn’t hurt. Practice good posture and walking with a purpose. This will quickly engage your torso and core and jumpstart those internal thoughts.
Focus on the Mind-Body Connection
Focusing on the mind-body connection can also have a great impact on creating and maintaining positive change in the New Year. Mindfulness facilitates self-compassion and empathy which facilitates better relationships. Understanding what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes makes us less likely to bully, tease, or act negatively toward others.
In the new year, take time to imagine the change you want to happen. Focusing a few minutes a day on positive outcomes has been shown to actually facilitate them. Most of all don’t dwell on the past. Live in the moment and make change a possibility every day.
Erica Hornthal, MA, LCPC, BC-DMT is a licensed professional clinical counselor and board certified dance/movement therapist. She received her MA in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling from Columbia College Chicago and her BS in psychology from University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. Erica is the CEO of Chicago Dance Therapy. As a psychotherapist in private practice, Erica specializes in working with older adults, families, and caregivers who are touched by dementia, movement, and cognitive disorders. She utilizes a somatic approach to engage her clients regardless of cognitive and physical ability. Her work has been highlighted in the Chicago Tribune, Social Work Magazine, WBBM News Radio, as well as on Fox, WCIU, and WGN.