Move a muscle, change a thought

My primary care provider shared a personal story with me a few months ago. We were discussing a few health challenges I’ve been facing in the past year, most of which have improved significantly, but not all. I’m lucky to have a pretty solid connection with multiple people I consider part of my physical and mental healthcare team, and she’s one of them.

I was describing a less-than-useful feeling that was dominating my thinking at the time.

“I just need to figure out how to get over the hump.”

It’s not a particularly refined way of expressing the fact that I felt stuck, but it’s also not a concept that requires much elaboration.

The first thing she said to me was that I needed to give myself more credit. I’d already “gotten over the hump” more than once with other specific and significant challenges and showed great progress. I could do that again with the remaining issues I face.

Then she paused for a minute.

“When I was in the middle of a really difficult time in my life, another doctor said to me: Move a muscle, change a thought.”

She paused again. Slowly, with deliberate and quiet expression, she continued.

“Move a muscle, change a thought…. Move a muscle, change a thought….”

“That advice really sunk in for me,” she said, “and I’ve relied on it a thousand times since. Go for a walk. Even if it’s just around the block. It’s not just good for your physical health, it’s good for your mental health. You’ll be surprised at how much it can help you dislodge the belief that you’re stuck.”

It’s taken me a while to act on her advice, despite the fact that I fully believed her, and felt the depth of personal impact she was conveying to me. Exercise has never been my strong suit.

I recently had a virtual appointment with her and was talking about where I was at with some of these challenges. It was clear I still wasn’t feeling awesome about where I’m at.

“It’s OK to take a few steps forward and a step or two back, a few more steps forward and a step or two back. You’re doing great. You’re making progress. It doesn’t have to all happen overnight.”

We wrapped up our call.

And I went for a walk.

Sometimes it takes a while for change to happen. I’ve since taken a walk for 7 out of 9 days. It won’t fix everything, but it’s a step. And it does work, even if just in the moment.

Move a muscle, change a thought.

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