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The Power Of Physical Movement

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When I was giving a talk about How To Live Wow!? in Russia a few weeks ago, I was confronted with a young audience that watched several long presentations, saw their lunch break postponed and obviously was frustrated when they were told that they would listen to one more speaker before a well-deserved break. That speaker was me. I felt like I had to figure out something to wake them up, or else my talk would go down the drain emotionally and would not have any impact. I decided to get people moving! It made me think about the impact of physical movement, and I decided to dive into it.

What do we say when we feel emotionally engaged with a certain event? “I was moved by that!” This might sound like just another expression, but there is a lot more to it.

First of all, there is a direct impact of physical movement on your ability to memorize things. Recent scientific research has proven that physical movement contributes to better memorizing. It also makes it easier for you to access information that is already stored in your memory. That is why people read information out loud when they try to memorize. That is why people highlight text that they feel is important. Obviously, highlighted information is easier to find later on, but the act itself is already a great contribution to your ability to memorize it. That might as well explain why a lot of people still prefer reading from paper, which they can physically move and make notes on.

A study conducted by Katinka Dijkstra of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in 2007, showed that assuming the body position people associate with a certain experience helps to recall more memories of that experience. This study hints that people who use their bodies in a different way also think differently.

Let me pick your brain

Let me ask you a few questions here: What makes you move physically? When you’re excited about something, you can’t sit still! When you feel like you should exercise more, what do you require (and, let’s face it, often lack)? The motivation to do it! What is absolutely required when you want to be successful in anything? Physical action! And what is it that triggers physical action? Emotion!

Fortunately, this also works the other way around. Getting people to move physically and then tell them something will generally contribute to a more memorable experience.

During speaking engagements, I move a lot on stage, knowing that it makes it much easier for the audience to pay attention. You might recall the last time you attended a very boring seminar or presentation, where the speaker just stands there, not moving anything but their mouth. It is probably even easier to remember the last time you attended an extremely interesting and entertaining talk, because the speaker brought across his or her point with passion and most likely moved a lot more physically than the boring speaker you just recalled. During that talk in Russia, which I referred to in the introduction of this post, I got the audience to stand up before I made an important point. The response I got from the audience was unlike I’ve ever seen before while giving the same talk!

How can you take advantage of the power of physical movement in your life?

Physical movement in the form of exercise contributes to your health in many ways. Frequent and regular physical exercise boosts your immune system, and helps prevent heart disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It also improves your emotional health, as it helps prevent depression, helps to promote or maintain positive self-esteem, and can contribute to your body image, which again is also linked with higher levels of self-esteem. This has all been scientifically proven. The most successful athletes are successful because of their physical and emotional training. But this also counts for successful entrepreneurs and politicians. The Obamas start as early as 4:30 in the morning with exercise, and there are countless examples of successful people who made exercise part of their daily routines.

Whenever you feel like you need to memorize something, look after your physical movement. It is easier to remember information when you sit up. Keep your back straight, keep your hands in a relaxed fist shape. Make notes, draw schemes. When you want others to memorize something, pay attention to your own body languages and put passion in whatever you have to tell them. Get them to engage in some physical action as well, such as taking notes, drawing something or, when appropriate, get them moving. I was once offered a job during a walk in the city. I am convinced that the person who offered me the job knew that physical engagement contributes. I didn’t take the job, but recalling it, I remember the walk in detail.

Using violence, which is not just the most physically intimidating way of making people memorize something but also emotionally very intimidating, you are likely to achieve your goal. That is why being confronted with information and with physical danger or even damage at the same time often leads to emotional traumas. You are also likely to end up in jail and lose your physical freedom, so I would highly discourage that ;-)

Physical movement as a result of emotions is often extremely powerful. When you have a great idea you feel excited about, don’t keep that excitement inside! Instead, I recommend you to take advantage of that passion to immediately come to action to lay the groundwork of whatever idea you wish to manifest in your life. In my research of successful people, I continuously see how they manage to use emotion as the driving force to initiate the physical realisation of their ideas, either by themselves, or by others who feel engaged.

Summarizing

To summarize the power of physical movement:

  • Physical movement in the form of exercise contributes to your health in many ways
  • Physical movement helps you to memorize information (input)
  • Physical movement helps you to recall information later on (output)
  • Physical movement is always required when you want to achieve particular success in your life

Today (or tomorrow, if you’re reading this at night), focus on how your physical behaviour and your emotions are connected with eachother. Notice how your physical movement changes as your emotions change, and try to figure out how a change of physical behaviour affects your emotions. Don’t hesitate to share your experiences in the comment field.

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Sietse Bakker

Sietse was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where he is currently based as well. He started his company Wow!works in 2003, at the age of 19, and founded How To Live Wow!? in 2009, after studying the topic of personal development for nearly a decade.

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2 Comments

  1. Kathy said:

    Movement unleashes the energy within. Expressing what your feel with moves amplifies your emotions, giving them ‘volume’ and shape, and *emancipates* both your body and mind (the movie ‘Dancer’ by Besson is a great example). Think about it: when you move you ‘expand yourself’ into the space, you ‘own’ it, you interact with the outer world. That makes you feel more powerful, open, ‘connected’ and alive.

    It is also well-known that one of the ways to acquire certain qualities you’d like to have is behaving, and moving, like people who have these. Copy a posture of a confident person – head up, shoulders set back, etc. – and you will feel more confident. There are two famous drama schools based on that. The first one argues that emotion goes first in acting: “To show horror you should first get scared, and that will make you run”. The second one stands for just the opposite: “Run, and you’ll feel scared”. The fun is, both approaches are right :D and come down to the ancient phrase: “As within, so without”.

    Moving physically also helps your thoughts move, literally :) One man I respect says, “When I need to think something over I take my dog and go for a walk”. You could actually play with it: if you have a problem to solve, take a walk, and imagine that you are literally moving towards the solution.

    For those who love public speaking, I’ve also featured some ‘technical’ aspects of the power of movement in a FB note ‘Voice is Body’.

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