By Marilynn Preston
“Adam” is a guy I’ve created to illustrate one big and fascinating idea from a new book by British psychotherapist William Pullen: Movement is medicine.
Yes! Forget the word “exercise” for now. Just moving our bodies – walking, dancing, jogging, preferably in nature – can help free us from stress, emotional pain and whatever else we’re dealing with that makes our bodies feel stuck, unsettled and depressed.
This therapeutic connection between the mind and body isn’t a theory; it’s a fact of life. Your body is self-healing and wondrous, and when you move it you automatically get the health benefits that come from the blood and lymph flowing, the molecules of emotion circulating, the tissues nourished, the joints juiced.
And when you add mindfulness to movement, therapist Pullen explains, you’re on a self-directed path to enhanced well-being, physical and mental.
So back to Adam: In our hypothetical scenario, Adam is stressed to the point of depression. He’s not sleeping. He can’t focus at work. And he’s starting a relationship with Johnnie Walker in startling and destructive ways.
Why? Because his wife wants a divorce. He’s shocked but also a little relieved. Maybe he’d be happier without her. What should he do?
“DRT (Dynamic Running Therapy) is a powerful and engaging step-by-step therapeutic method for confronting difficult feelings and circumstances in your life through movement,” writes Pullen, author of “Running With Mindfulness,” in which he enthusiastically gives detailed instructions.
Adam – a slow runner, but that doesn’t matter – could use DRT to work through challenging issues around divorce. But Pullen assures us this revelatory combo of movement, mindfulness and provocative questions is also good for dealing with anger, letting go of fear, overcoming the terrors of perfectionism and more.
The acronym DRT stands for Dynamic Running Therapy, but it’s certainly not limited to running or runners. Anyone can do it, at any level of fitness, alone or with a trusted listening partner, as long as you’re willing to commit to the process and follow a number of steps.
Adam manages to do most all of them – from head-to-toe body scans before he runs to journaling for a few minutes right after. At the end of his time, using Pullen’s techniques, he moves on to a much happier and healthier relationship with wife No. 2.
Such a satisfying ending. Such an enlightening book. Here are a few more of Pullen’s steps “to get moving, get mindful, and lift yourself out of low moods.”
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
DRT isn’t designed to involve challenging exercise. If you can barely walk a block, you can still do it. Think of it as a tool for increasing your self-awareness and your body awareness, a method for “noticing the tone of your inner dialogue and meeting whatever you find there with acceptance and patience.”
MAKE ROOM FOR FEELINGS
When you move with intention and focus on a particular question – e.g., “Where does the anxiety about divorce live in my body?” – you will reconnect with feelings you may have hidden deep down. “Emotion in motion can be very powerful,” therapist Pullen writes, so be prepared to welcome those feelings, without judgment or shame.
DON’T STRIVE TOO HARD
Mindful movement isn’t like conventional exercise. Striving too hard can create more stress and anxiety. “The key is finding your own pace, finding your footing and finding yourself. It will happen on its own if you stay present. … The pain you feel when you are depressed provides an ongoing opportunity to improve your mindful practice,” Pullen writes, cheerfully.
“Each time you feel the bark of the black dog it is a chance to come back once more to the body, to sensation, and to recognize that thoughts come and go, feelings come and go. … Acknowledge the thought or feeling as just that, and let it pass on by.”
If you get a busy signal when you think about your “inner dialogue,” don’t stress. Pullen’s book gives you lots of questions and prompts to guide you. It’s a process, he reminds us, and if you’re patient and forgiving, you’ll discover gold.
Marilynn Preston is the author of Energy Express, America’s longest-running healthy lifestyle column. For more on personal well-being, visit www.MarilynnPreston.com.