Movement for Mental Health

Updated: Aug 27, 2021

Our bodies are truly incredible and when the heart, mind and body connect we can position ourselves to receive energy, fulfil our greatest needs and live our best life.

I know I am not alone in the challenge of finding balance in life and knowing how best to respond to my thoughts and feelings. There is certainly no right or wrong way, nor is there an instruction manual to follow.

Learning to be present with myself has helped me determine when to follow my heart or when to apply logic and reason. When to trust my gut instincts and beliefs or when to weigh the pros and cons and question where my instincts and beliefs come from and why they matter.

In the current COVID-affected world, the need for me to pause and surrender has been real.

Accepting the unknown and allowing myself to just be, tending to my own needs and trusting that my example will have a greater influence and effect than any spoken words or physical presence could.

I have a history of using physical activity, in particular running, to boost my mood when the going gets tough. The runner’s high can be addictive, however I have learnt it cannot be solely relied upon to carry me on a high throughout my day. My motivation is not always there, especially in the dark cold winter mornings when bed feels so good! And unfortunately I can’t bottle up all those amazing endorphins felt after a run and take them with me while I face the rest of the week.

Our bodies are like a sponge to our environment. Consciously and subconsciously we are absorbing the world around us. We have been socialised to respond appropriately to good news, bad news, sad news etc. But often when conflict arises our feelings can be stirred, prodding past trauma and leaving us feeling unsettled, emotional, confused and exhausted.

Getting to know yourself and becoming your own expert on what triggers and evokes particular feelings enables you to personally care, protect and nurture yourself. Even though this work might feel like you are focusing purely on yourself, it is actually the most selfless thing you can do. Showing up for yourself before others enables you to be a better person for your people.

I’m a firm believer that the ripple effects of acts of kindness and selfless generosity as a result of one’s own inner peace and self acceptance travel furthest and widest both in the greater community and around the world.

Showing up for oneself and taking action to heal, deal and cope with your struggles, particularly in the unpredictable world around us, takes practice, patience and a willingness to learn and grow. But after all, what is life for if not learning?

And central to all of this is that movement is crucially important for our wellbeing. Talk therapies like counselling and grief and bereavement coaching play a part in our healing but when combined with physical movement the unsaid things that are felt deeply but not necessarily cognitively understood can be shifted.

When physically moving and stretching our bodies we expand ourselves and this expansion creates an openness for real growth and change. Through moving the body you may see external physical changes but the lifelong benefit happens internally. Strengthening our mind muscle through our thoughts can reach even deeper within our soul.

The process of great transformation involves both experiencing life and examining the feelings that may be holding you back - the feelings you tiptoe around, shove down, ignore, compensate for and just generally avoid. Shining a light on these uncomfortable feelings is not fun but the alternative of soldiering on, putting on a brave face, telling yourself and others you are fine, is not sustainable. At some point something will give, likely your body or mind, and you will be forced to pause.

Many of you know about my marathon running and Ironman events, but I don’t often share as much about my more personal practice of creative dance. Creative dance is a conscious moving meditation that has not only been the backbone of my running success but more importantly a tool and language that I use to coach myself in day-to-day life.

The practice of creative dance helps connect my thoughts and experiences into movement that enables me to express, shift or simply rid myself of any energy that I have attracted that is not serving me in a fulfilling way.

What do I mean by ‘rid myself of energy’? You may have seen, heard or read something that you don’t agree with. Your opinions on a topic may be changing or evolving and that can cause discomfort when things you thought were black or white suddenly seem grey. Our body can internalise those discomforts and that’s when we become stuck, overwhelmed and often act from a place of fear rather than being curious enough about our feelings to really explore them.

You don’t need to commit to joining a class or group to benefit from creative movement. Exploring feelings through movement can be as simple as putting on some tunes and comfy clothes and freeing your mind by allowing the body to move without judgement, restriction, steps or choreographed routines. As the beat and rhythm change so does your movement, almost simultaneously without the need for conscious thought or direction.

One of the reasons I commit to my dance practice and understand its place in my overall balanced well being is because of the simple yet profound words from my first teacher David Juriansz:

‘It’s not about the song, it's about the movement.’ You don't have to like the song - feel the dislikes, be uncomfortable but keep moving.

Go deeper, find space for that discomfort, move into that space and express what it feels like to be human in that space. Own it and keep moving through it and show up no matter what song is playing.

The two phrases that I frequently hear since the pandemic started are ‘It is what it is’ and ‘This too shall pass’. These universal statements may acknowledge the shitty feelings but don’t really give any guidance or direction to a path beyond the situation. For the most part the onus is on the individual to forge a way through by looking inward and reflecting how they can be the change. This is always easier said than done and requires real courage and commitment to self.

But just like the song keeps on changing, so does the world we live in. Our best chance at survival is to keep moving. And I intentionally use the word survival as the alternative of death by suicide is not ok. Striving to thrive is what I live for, but I know too well that life is fragile. Fragile things need to be cared for, they are precious, delicate and easily broken.

We don't escape this journey of life without needing tender loving care. If you can remember back to your last air flight when the flight attendant reminded you that in case of emergency you need to put on your oxygen mask before helping others including your children. We get reminded of this because instinctively we reach out to help others before helping ourselves.

And just like the world keeps changing and we are required to do our normal differently, the need to learn new ways to care for self is vital. The good news is that there are so many options available for those curious and willing to try.

We humans need connection, purpose and belonging. For many, our roles in life and work have changed due to the Covid restrictions and guidelines. Our identities can be attached to these roles and growing a self awareness around how the loss of one's identity can be affecting our self esteem and mood is all part of getting to know and understand yourself and how you can best prioritise and meet those needs.

I know what it is like to feel stuck and alone and have developed a range of tools and resources to better care for myself and coach others through this process for themselves. Just like no two people are the same, nor is our response to change, trauma, loss and grief. So please reach out if you feel the need to connect after reading this.

Below are some links and information from movement experts, in particular my creative dance group 5Rhythms.

There have been some amazing dance leaders and teachers that adapted to Zoom very quickly in this pandemic. I was surprised by the impact and connection possible when dancing on-line from home and have been so grateful for it.

I'm only listing my favourite teachers that I have met in person and attended their classes, along with the global directory for certified 5rhythms teachers. If you have any questions or want to dance let me know.

From my heart to yours,


Global directory for certified 5Rythms teachers

5Rhythms Dance Melbourne Group (Direct class link

Natalie Poole - 5Rythms. On-line, Mornings, Daily

Natalie also offers a weekly Multivitamin membership that starts each Monday!! You can drop into as many classes as you like. Or book casually.

Honor Morningstar 5Rhythms - Wake up and Dance. Brisbane & Sunshine Coast

Honor lives in Mullumbimby and has created solid dance communities in Brisbane, Maleny and Coolum. She offers weekend dance retreats from her sacred place in Mullumbimby. I know so many people are grateful for her commitment to her dance tribe and the travelling she does to make it all happen.

Heart Dance - Byron Bay

Heart Dance is specifically Liat Lev, who teaches in Byron Bay and travels to Melbourne when she can. Her Sunday on-line classes are a favourite. Her spoken word and poetry entwined into her playlist is superb.

Jenny Bryne - Dancing Freedom, Brisbane Dancing Freedom, specifically Jenny Bryne who offers an embodied movement practice. It also embraces ritual and ceremony to connect with self, others, community, the land, the planet and the cosmos.

Georgia Shine - Cellist, Artist and Moving Connections Facilitator

Georgia Shine, founder of Moving Connections is currently living in Tasmania and offering some movement and play based online connections. These are creative and fun!

Kate Shela - Los Angeles

I was lucky enough to immerse myself in a weekend with Kate on her Australian tour in 2019. She is a powerhouse!

David Juriansz and Meredith Davies of Moving Essence

David beautifully explains and demonstrates the 5Rythms practice in this video that was created back when I was a regular dancer in Melbourne. Watching this brought back fond memories of tribe and connection.

Meredith was the first person to offer regular 5Rhythms classes in Australia, nearly two decades ago and her video tells her story so well.

David and Meredith are offering on-line classes also.

103 views0 comments