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Cultivating Healthy Movement Habits

It is common to set goals of moving more or practicing more self-care, but it isn’t always easy to begin something new. Perhaps it’s hard to find extra time. Maybe it’s challenging to get motivated. The following are a few tricks that have helped me successfully build new habits.

1. Add on to an existing routine.

Work with your habits that are already well established. There are things we all make time to do, no matter how busy or tired we are. Putting on your clothes in the morning, brushing your teeth, making a cup of tea, using the toilet—there are little things you do every day, and you can use them to add to in more self-care. For instance, I always keep a round rock in my bathroom to do a little foot mobilization or massage while I also brush my teeth. I also keep a bolster on the kitchen floor so I can stretch my calves while preparing a meal. I practice balancing on one leg when I am toweling off after a shower, and work on mindfully hip-hinging when I bend over to clean the floor. When I find ways to blend daily routines with exercises, I not only feel like I am saving time but also that I’m transforming otherwise less-interesting moments of my day into something more meaningful.

2. Enjoy yourself.

We are much more likely to be motivated and willing to prioritize time for something we enjoy doing. If you are trying to get in the practice of doing more movement, start with the things you love, such as a stretch that feels absolutely delicious. Celebrate the stuff you’re already doing—that’s more likely to encourage you to keep going.

3. Start small.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting started, and once I’m doing something, I remember how much I love it. For example, I can look out the window at the blowing, rainy sky and hesitate to go out on a walk. Remembering how much I enjoy walking, even in the rain, I might tell myself to just get out for a walk around the block. Once I’m out there, though, I might find myself going on for a few miles. Another time, I might just do one yoga pose. The hard part of initializing movement has already happened, and now it’s simple to do a little more.

4. Take advantage of idle moments.

These days, idle moments are usually automatically filled by our smartphones. If you can bear to leave your phone alone for a bit, you will find loads of movement opportunities. Waiting in line or in a reception room—these are perfect places to practice some subtle one-legged balances, or do some gentle neck stretches. When you realize no one cares what you’re doing and that self-consciousness fades away, you can go for hamstring stretches, doorway reaches, and maybe some lunges.

Zoom meetings are another really great place for exploratory, random movement. When I’m at a meeting, I’m constantly stretching and self-massaging my hands, shoulders, and neck—as long as I’m not doing anything too disruptive!

5. Do it with other people.

Perhaps the best way to develop new habits is to do them with friends. When I’ve got others who are counting on me to show up, I’m going to be there. I’m much more likely to commit to a new practice if I’ve got friends (or friendly strangers!) there. I try to surround myself with people I know will help motivate me. It’s also helpful to just talk with someone about my intentions, knowing their support will help me keep working toward my goals.


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