Moving to meet emotional needs – video transcript

Movement supports good mental health by lifting our mood and reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. but moving can also help us meet the emotional needs upon which good mental health depends.

For example, as we get into the habit of moving more, we may notice that we can breathe more easily, think more clearly and sleep better too.

These improvements, all help to make us feel safer about our health, so that our emotional need for security is better met.

Moving can also help us to feel more in control of our lives.

Gaining in fitness, strength or flexibility can give us a huge sense of control over our bodies.

But so, too, can choosing when we will do simple kinds of movement, which can give our day a better sense of structure.

So, if we are sitting at a desk for long periods of time, we might choose to stand up and stretch every hour. Or walk up and down a flight of stairs to lift our heart rate for a short time.

Going for a walk or a run alone gives us a great opportunity to meet the need for privacy, when we can reflect and process our thoughts.

Often, when we don’t have the chance to do this, we may take our concerns to bed with us, which can stop us going off to sleep.

If we are preoccupied with thoughts we have yet to process, we may also struggle to give attention to important areas of our lives, like friends and family, including partners and children.

The rhythm of moving can put us into a special state of attention which psychologists call flow. When we are in flow, and exercise is keeping our stress levels under control, we can reflect on the events of the day and any work or personal challenges we may be facing while feeling calm.

This helps us to let those events and concerns go so that we can better give attention to others at home, or to work tasks, and to sleep better too.

Sharing the experience of moving with other people can help us to meet our need for emotional connection. These shared experiences might include catching up on the week with friends we go for walks with; having fun with other people in a gym, yoga or martial arts class; playing in a team with others; or giving and receiving encouragement as we achieve goals to become fitter, stronger and healthier.

Feeling part of a group where we share the experience of overcoming challenges and other people acknowledge our progress, meets our needs for community and status too.

Stretching ourselves to overcome challenges is part of meeting the need for achievement.

So, if we are notice that we can walk further, run or swim further, feel a little stronger or find we can move more easily, or with greater flexibility, it can give us a great sense of achievement.

But even just noticing that we are moving a little more today than we did yesterday can help us to meet our need for achievement.

And taking that a stage further, by setting ourselves goals and taking small steps everyday towards them, we can meet our need for meaning and purpose too.

So, as well as meeting our need for movement, physical activity also helps us to meet the emotional needs and gives us a better chance of securing good mental health and wellbeing.