Go move. Then Stop.
I can't speak for everyone, but I've got a good feeling all of us have experienced those times when you just need to move.
Not like moving out of town, but just moving in general.
It usually happens when your brain has been on overdrive for too long, zipping through thought after thought after thought, and your body never gets the chance to catch up. You might feel it after a few hours, or maybe you've been on autopilot for a few weeks, moving through a haze. Even if you're mentally exhausted, your body feels like you've quadrupled your espresso intake and it has to do something.
Just for this reason, I bought a punching bag and hung it up in my parents garage a few years back. Sure, when I'm frustrated at something the bag has occasionally been the object of my wrath – weathering millions upon millions of my ninja-quick, hurricane-force punches – but typically, it's just a vehicle for me to expel all my pent up energy after feeling like my brain has run around the world a couple times. Since I moved out on my own, the bag has been given a vacation and now I've taken up running as a solution.
No matter the vehicle, however, the physiology of why movement is vital to our mental wellbeing is way beyond me. Fortunately, you don't have to understand how it works before you feel its blissful effects. It's like your brain gets a chance to finally turn off and your body just starts going. Sometimes you only need a minute or two to get it all out. Sometimes you might be going for a good 10-20 minutes. And then sometimes you lose yourself in it and the minutes can turn to hours. During these moments you usually push your body harder than you normally would. If you kept track of your time, there's a good chance you may have run your fastest mile; or if you're a swimmer, maybe you've landed a new personal best for distance.
Regardless of how long it takes, though, at the end of the exercise you reach a point where you just stop. You've burned all your energy and you don't need to keep moving anymore. You put your hands on your head and catch your breath, or you grab on to the side of the pool, or you let your gloves fall to your side.
For me, that moment feels like waking up.
It feels like your brain, which had been turned off just a short time before, got rebooted and has been reconnected to your body. You feel like you're actually seeing, hearing, and feeling the things around you instead of just floating through everything.
For people who live in their heads a bit too much, being that grounded is an incredible feeling.
Building off what I wrote yesterday, my brain has been in one of those billion-mile-per-hour states for the last week or so – thinking, analyzing, overthinking, over-analyzing, catastrophizing, etc. Even though I've been on top of my exercise game, sometimes I need a little extra push. Today, that push was an additional beach run. I ran an 8 minute mile, which is pretty dang good considering the last time I timed myself running a mile in sand I got 9.5 minutes. At the end of the run, I was spent. I was gasping for air, grabbing my side, and feeling like my legs were about to fall off.
A minute later, though, when my brain was able to focus on more than just staying alive, it felt like everything was right where it was supposed to be. The sand, the water, the trees, the wind, and even the cold – everything just fit together perfectly. It's hard to explain without sounding crazy, but it was like God was silently standing next to me, letting me appreciate the beauty of that moment. No sound system could ever match the clarity of the surf rushing in and out on the shore. The trees stood happily looking out over the water, just as they've done for the last 10 decades. I felt as if the sea breeze was hugging me as it whispered past my ears. And even though it was cold, I felt like I could sit there for a good hour.
So I did.
I just sat there: seeing, hearing, feeling. It almost felt like a wordless conversation with someone who knows you so deeply and intimately that you're okay with just being in their presence without feeling like you have to say something.
In our ultra-fast, social media driven society, that's a rare feeling to have these days.
Movement isn't a bad thing. Going places and doing things and being with people are all amazing. Brainstorming and creating and dreaming are crazy fun to be a part of. But don't forget to stop every once and a while and be in the moment. Turn your brain off to the distractions and just exist for a few minutes.
Those few minutes of conscious existence might feel like wasted time, but if you're walking around in a haze everyday, consumed with what's going to happen the next day, or replaying yesterday's conversations, then I'd say your missing more of your life than you are realizing.
Go move. Then Stop.