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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

How a Flexible Body Makes a Flexible Mind

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Aug 12th 2010

When you enter the doors of any health professional, you’re bound to get the question of what your exercise looks like. It’s a well known fact that a healthy body has profound implications for our level of energy and simply feeling good. However, I want to offer up another way working with the body benefits your mental health.

It’s my belief that engaging the body with gentle stretching or yoga can lead to a flexible mind. A flexible mind can help us break free from old habits that no longer serve us.

Here’s how this happens. Taking intentional time to stretch the body means we have to take time out of our daily busy-ness to pay attention to physical sensations of our bodies. This primes us to come down from the whirlwind of our minds and directly into our physical bodies.

When we’re dealing with stress, anxiety or a slip into depressed mood, an important skill to learn is to redirect attention from the thoughts in the mind and come to the facts of the moment. The sensations you are experiencing in the moment are factually happening. The constriction in the chest, tension in the shoulders, or turning of the stomach is actually occurring. The flight into thoughts is a subconscious strategy to avoid this feeling or try and fix it.

Getting in touch with intentional stretching during the day primes the mind to be able to engage with this skill during different moments.

As we do this we notice that we naturally begin to see things from a wider perspective. Not getting called back the next day after a first date may not mean the person doesn’t like you, but maybe that they’re busy today. A speeding ticket may not mean the end of the world, but maybe a reminder to slow down that saves you from a future accident.

There are many ways to train the mind to be more flexible, intervening through gentle stretching in the body is just one of them.

Don’t take my word for it, try it out today. You can even do it at work for a few minutes at a time.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Dang -- darned technology - Kate - Aug 21st 2010

I read this because you referenced it on a comment on Huffington Post and the danged system lost/rejected my comment for technical reasons.

I'll get back to you about my thoughts on this matter but basically, I agree with your conclusion.


Interesting - Cindy - Aug 13th 2010

Streching, I'm gonna try it...

Usually my distraction for stress relief is house cleaning.  hmmmm lol

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