Moving within the Sweet Spot
In the previous post, I talked about the importance of finding the sweet spot between too little and too much challenge. In this post, I’d like to offer some ways of knowing how to recognise that sweet spot for yourself. This idea can be applied to many different activities which is why I just call it “moving.” These ideas apply to the musician, dancer, painter, chess player, athlete and even to our daily lives.
A prerequisite to finding the sweet spot is the ability to pay attention to, or sense how you move and how you feel while moving. This sensing while doing is a skill that can be learned and refined and is required for the following qualities. When you are moving, there are an infinite number of aspects you could sense. Most of what we do is governed by our subconscious minds, in fact it has been said that 95% or our actions are unconscious. So what do we do with that precious 5%? You probably know that you can sense many things, how do you choose?
Start with a general sense: How are you feeling? Are you enjoying yourself? Are you straining? Are you bored? Are you thinking about something else, like what you’ll eat when you’re done moving? By focusing your attention on how you’re moving, you can bring yourself into the present moment and you will be better able to gauge your effort and how you feel.
Now to the list, here are some ideas for what you can sense and vary while moving.
The way you’re breathing reflects how you’re moving. It also responds to your emotional state. Does your breath cycle support your movements? Does your breathing show that you’re stressed or enjoying yourself? Additionally, you’ll need to breathe differently if you’re running, dancing, lifting weights or practicing something like Tai Chi. Shallow and/or strained breathing can be an indication that you’re working too hard. Look for a breathing rhythm that supports your activity. You can experiment with different breathing patterns and speeds. Conscious variation of your breath can also effect your emotional state.
Exercise often brings people into repetitive patterns, which can be good for some things like running or walking. However, too much of the same thing allows our minds to wander and leave the present moment. Treadmills in health clubs with TV screens are a perfect example. If you find yourself running the same speed day after day (or watching the same reality show), try varying your pace, choosing a different course or add some obstacles to your routine. Instead of varying TV channels, turn off the tube altogether and watch the interesting reality show going on inside your body and mind.
Sense of Effort:
As I wrote in the last post, you need a balance between too much and too little effort. If you’re straining too much, you will begin to think about how difficult it is or notice the discomfort more than sensing what you’re doing. Find a level of effort that is sustainable for the duration you have planned plus a little more. Finishing your activity with a little reserve can also build self confidence.
How many people engage in some form of exercise simply because it’s good for them? If you’re doing something like swimming, just because it’s supposed to be healthy, you won’t get all that much out of it. One reason is that you’ll probably be more likely to think about what you’ll do after you “get it over with.” Finding activities that are enjoyable will make it much easier to be motivated and are more sustainable. Group activities can often be a good way to increase enjoyment, even if they are demanding.
Why are you doing what you’re doing? Does your chosen activity have some value to you and your life? That value may be just because it’s fun. In fact, activities that are intrinsically rewarding will benefit you more than those you do just to get it done.
Is there some risk or challenge involved? In order to get into the present, it’s very helpful to have some form of risk or challenge. Fortunately, the risk or challenge doesn’t need to be life threatening. For example, if you’re playing a ball sport, the risk of missing the target or blowing a pass is perceived by part of your brain as a real risk. Leaning a new dance step can also be risky as well. If you already have something that you love to do, you can add little bits of complexity now and then to keep yourself present.
This list is incomplete and you may have more ideas. Please share them in the comments section of the blog so we can all learn.
P.S. If you know someone who would also benefit from these posts, please share. We’ll both thank you!
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