Why fun is fundamental to your health and happiness

Why fun is fundamental to your health and happiness

Why fun is fundamental to your health and happiness

Nia - Now I Am - positive affirmations with Sophie Marsh
Nia with Sophie Marsh dance for health

“Having fun is not a diversion from a successful life; it is the pathway to it… written in the language of joy.”
~ Martha Beck

When was the last time you felt light-hearted, connected, and alive with joy?  What were you doing?  Who were you with?

Maybe you’ve been crazy busy… or stuck in a loop of everyday life… or weighed down by difficult circumstances… or overwhelmed by change and uncertainty. There are serious, sad, and confronting things happening in the world around us, contributing to general stress and an epidemic of mental health issues. In these tough times, fun may seems frivolous.

But what if fun was the secret to health and well-being?

Recently I came across a book “The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again” by science journalist Catherine Price. (She also does a great TED Talk.) She says having fun is a like a health intervention that can bring you back to life.

Catherine explains there’s a big difference between what she calls “fake fun” and “true fun”. Fake fun gives a quick fix of pleasure – like fast-food, binge-watching Netflix, scrolling socials or a few wines – it ultimately leaves you feeling numb and unsatisfied.

By contrast, true fun is a relaxed and open state that makes you feel nourished and refreshed.  Through her own research and experience, Catherine defines true fun as a congruence of three psychological states – playfulness, connection, and flow.

  • Playfulness means being spontaneous, light-hearted, and doing something just for the pleasure of it, without striving for a goal or outcome.
  • Connection means having a special shared experience with someone (or something) else. Meaningful relationships and human connection are vital for our physical and mental health.
  • Flow state is a feeling of effortless attention where you’re so fully immersed in an activity that you lose track of time. Your skills meet the challenge, and you feel deeply satisfied.

How to fill your life with more playfulness, connection and flow.

  1. Increase playfulness by embracing your inner 5-year-old and giving yourself permission to be more spontaneous, expressive, and free of judgment.
  2. Increase connection by interacting more with others in real life… face to face, soul to soul, human to human. Notice how our differences disappear when we connect through fun.
  3. Reduce distractions to increase flow. Replace mindless screen time with more purposeful presence, doing what you love.
  4. Commit to daily rituals and weekly activities that nourish your body, engage your mind, and liberate your spirit.

Make fun a priority… 

Scan your daily life and make 2 lists. Write down

  1. activities (or people) that take up time and result in feeling empty or drained.
  2. activities (or people) that help you get into a state of playful, connected flow and leave you feeling energised and alive.

Set your intention to invest less time on #1 and more on #2. Sounds easy, but think about how much time you spend on your phone. Taking action on this can be a powerful habit breaker.

When you feel like you’re getting your joy back, you’ll know you’ve got the balance right for you! Research affirms you are more resilient, creative, persistent, present, and productive when you are engaged in pursuits that bring us maximum fun.

Want more fun… do more Nia!

Nia is a serious practice that reminds you not to take yourself too seriously! Every Nia experience offers opportunities for playfulness, connection, and flow. With contagious joy and community at its heart, practising (and sharing) Nia brings you meaningful connection, a sense of purpose, and sustainable health and wellbeing… the FUNdamentals of feeling alive!

If you want more joy in your life, why not (re)commit to coming regularly to my online or in-person Nia classes or immerse yourself in a week of fun and self discovery with the Nia White Belt?

“Fun is important. Fun is what keeps you ageless.” ~ Dr Christiane Northrup

MOVEMENT IS MEDICINE – PLAYFUL NIA PRACTICE

First, tune in to your body and notice any places that feel heavy or tight.  Take this 3 minute dance break with me and then afterwards, notice what feels better and give gratitude for that. Thank you body!

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

How body awareness can change your mind and boost your wellbeing

How body awareness can change your mind and boost your wellbeing

How body awareness can change your mind and boost your wellbeing

Nia - Now I Am - positive affirmations with Sophie Marsh
Nia with Sophie Marsh dance for health

“In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.” ~ Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score

Changing your body changes your mind!

For centuries we were programmed to live in our heads. The mind was seen as the fount of knowledge and rational thought, separate from the body, which was considered less significant or even reviled. Now anthropologists, philosophers, neuroscientists and cognitive scientists affirm that every cell and organ has its own intelligence and that the body plays an integral role in thinking and decision making.

The gut-brain connection is a burgeoning field of mind-body research. Did you know, gut bacteria manufacture about 95 percent of the body’s supply of serotonin, which influences both mood and gastrointestinal activity? And hormones have a huge impact on your mental wellbeing. (Just ask any teenager or menopausal woman!) Yet in education, health and business sectors, the power of the body to affect the mind is still being under-utilised.

How can you unwind stress and fear patterns that keep you feeling stuck or anxious?

Google “best ways to manage stress, fear, anxiety, depression, overwhelm, trauma, distraction, or dementia.” The most recent answers will most likely include “pay attention to what you feel in your body and where you feel it, use conscious breathing techniques, and prioritise regular exercise”, as well as intermittent fasting a diet of unprocessed food, quality sleep, social connection, and balancing your hormones (I take Happy Hormones from HHY).

This evidence-based holistic approach aligns with what we teach in the Nia White Belt – how to access your body’s natural intelligence and use mindfulness and movement to feel better.  N.I.A = Neuromuscular Integrative Action!

  • Begin with developing the ability to notice subtle body sensations – listen to them, then respond in a way that respects your body’s needs. In Nia we call this body literacy. Notice and name the little things that make you feel good inside and out, throughout your day.
  • Commit to a daily practice that shifts your awareness deeper into your body and reconnects you with your inherent vibrancy and vitality – practices like Nia, 5Stages, conscious breathwork, a mindful walk, or a body scan meditation.
  • Make moving your body for your health and wellbeing a priority. It sounds simple (and it is once you get started), but the latest stats show that 50-75 percent of middle-aged women are insufficiently active. Put it on your schedule to make it real. Like most things, the more you do it, the easier it gets. 

A MIND-BODY EXERCISE

Try it out… Tell yourself a contracted thought like “I’m hopeless”, “It’s never going to work out”, “I shouldn’t… couldn’t… can’t…” and notice what happens in your body. Let your body response be exaggerated. For example, if your shoulders feel heavy, let them really fold in. Notice any tension, breath-holding, or dense energy. 

Now… lift your heart and open your posture. You might organically take a deep breath or two. Keep shifting until you take on a more powerful, expanded stance… now make it even bigger. Open your eyes, and with softness, look around and let the light in. What has happened to your thoughts?

NOW I AM…

Nia’s creator Debbie Rosas says that when you get stuck in the thinking mind you block your life-force and creativity. This is your ego coming from control and fear, and it shows up in your body as tightness. Living in your head depletes your energy, steals your joy, and restricts your potential and growth.

As you tap into your body intelligence, it shifts your mind in a positive direction – away from negative thoughts and towards creative connection and authentic expression. You learn to trust your intuition and respond from your sacred truth. Distractions and things you can’t control lose their power, freeing you to experience more joy and your natural state of being – love.

In any given moment you can decide… what do I want to embody? N.I.A = Now I Am…

Healing Affirmation – Going Beyond the Limitations of Fear

“Today I will let go of all fear. I realise that fear comes from my self image and not my Self. My ego is an image that I have created. By letting go of my ego I will embrace the truth inside me, which is fearless.

EGO = Edging God Out. Whenever my ego overshadows my spirit, it creates tightness in my body. I will witness the sensation of fear by feeling it, and then I will take the courageous step to do the very thing I fear. I will not fight my ego, I will witness it. This is the highest form of human intelligence – to observe yourself without judgment. Today I will observe my fear and my witnessing of it will transform it into love.” ~ Deepak Chopra

MOVEMENT IS MEDICINE – NIA DANCE BREAK

First, tune in to your body and notice any places that feel heavy or tight.  Take this 3.5 minute dance break with me and then afterwards, notice what feels better and give gratitude for that. Thank you body!

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

HOW TO HARNESS YOUR BREATH FOR TRANSFORMATION AND SELF-HEALING

HOW TO HARNESS YOUR BREATH FOR TRANSFORMATION AND SELF-HEALING

HOW TO HARNESS YOUR BREATH FOR TRANSFORMATION AND SELF-HEALING

“Our breathing is a stable solid ground that we can take refuge in. No matter what is going on inside us – thoughts, emotions, or perceptions – our breathing is always with us, like a faithful friend. Whenever we are carried away by our thinking, when we are overwhelmed by strong emotions, or when our minds are restless and dispersed, we can return to our breathing.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh 

Inhale, exhale, repeat. Breathing – it’s an autonomic reflex and the foundation of life.

The body knows how to do this simple act without our interference – we do it 23,000 times every day!  Yet our thoughts, feelings and perceptions can change the depth and rate of our breathing, setting off a cascade of physical changes that promote either stress or relaxation.

Right now, feel into your body and remember the worst that you’ve felt in this last week.  Yep… the worst!  What do you notice in your body?  Contracted slump, quickening heart rate, shallow breaths, tight chest?  Okay… shake that off (literally, give yourself a good shimmy.) Now, recall the best that you’ve felt in this last week.  Feel into a moment of pleasure or gratitude.  Embody the feeling and make it even bigger. Did you just take a deep breath? The quickest way to change your mind, is to change your body and energy. Conscious breathwork is a really easy way to do that. (So is dancing Nia!)

Breath has been at the heart of most meditation, mindfulness, yoga and conscious movement practices for hundreds to thousands of years.

It’s revered as a conduit of lifeforce energy, the movement of spirit, a way to anchor “monkey mind” and bring awareness into the body.  It was a central part of my training in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Pelvic-Heart Integration, and Trauma Sensitive Yoga. As with many ancient practices, science is now affirming the powerful benefits of breathwork as a tool for transformation and self-healing.

Nia’s creator Debbie Rosas loves to say, “Smell the moment.” Try it out now… take a slow sip of air through your nostrils and softening your jaw, gently exhale through your mouth. Do it several times, extending your exhale a little more each time. As the relaxation response kicks in, you might notice a build-up of saliva in your mouth. That’s your parasympathetic nervous system being activated to calm the brain.

Another gift of focussing on your breath is that it brings you into the present moment and enhances your sensory experience. The senses are immediate, alive, here now. As you breathe and isolate each sense, it creates feelings of connection, purpose and meaning.

TRY THE FIVE SENSES BREATH TECHNIQUE (downloadable pdf coming soon)

In contrast, sitting for prolonged periods online can cause screen apnea – breath holding or shallow breathing. Over time, screen apnea can disrupt your sleep, lower your energy levels, interfere with your ability to focus and think quickly, lead to or exacerbate depression, anxiety and other mood disorders, and cause systemic inflammation and stress-related illness.

When you’re looking at a screen, your breathing changes. You’re like an animal in stalking mode.” ~ Dr. Belisa Vranich, Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve your Mental and Physical Health

It’s well documented that learning to relax is one of the most important keys to long-term health and vitality.

When you inhale, you receive energy and life; when you exhale, you let it go. Most of us have been under prolonged stress for so long, we’ve forgotten what deep relaxation feels like and according to psychologist Dr Belisa Vranich, 9 out of 10 of us have been breathing incorrectly since childhood.

Why does breathing correctly matter?

How we breathe deeply affects our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual fitness and wellbeing. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lungs relate to grief and loss. Grief is a normal response to anger, loss, and violence. When the trauma affects an entire community, country or the world, it is known as collective grief and we’ve been riding it in relentless waves. Over time, our breathing, muscles, and posture can get stuck in fight, flight or freeze stress-response patterns, and so we’re unable to move through the stages of grief.

What can we do to self-heal?

Breathwork is one of the most effective tools to activate the vagus nerve and improve the mind-body connection. When we combine intentional breathing with Nia 5 Stages it’s an even more powerful way to re-pattern our breath, realign our core postural muscles and calm our nervous system. Of course, Nia’s blend of mindfulness, music, movement and community connection is also wonderful medicine.

It’s the practices that we prioritise every day that prepare us for when life throws us a curve ball or we feel generally overwhelmed. Being able to consciously control our breathing in times of stress and anxiety can improve how we feel and how we respond.

Experience the healing and transformative power of intentional breathing

Check out some of the many breathwork resources available or join me via YouTube for a 9 minute 5 Stages practice. In addition to integrating breathing techniques in our Nia classes, stay tuned for some upcoming online mindfulness and breathwork sessions with me or contact me for one-on-one appointments, in person or online.

MBSR meditation with Jon Kabat-Zinn – 4 minutes

LETTING GO – 9 Magic Breaths meditation with Tara Brach – 6 minutes

WIM HOF METHOD – free mini class of power breathing

BREATHWORK CLASS – with Chris Keener – 45 minutes

HOW TO BREATHE and why most of us are doing it wrong – Dr. Belisa Vranich TEDx – 10 minutes

BREATHE – Joe DiStefano TEDx (at 12 minutes – learn how he uses 5 Stages with professional athletes) – 17 minutes

10 Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Breathing Exercises
  • feeling calmer, more focussed and non-reactive
  • lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  • improves immune system functioning
  • better balance of oxygen and CO2 in the blood
  • increases physical energy
  • improves metabolism and digestion
  • more compassion, less rigidity
  • increases inner peace and mental clarity
  • decreases symptoms of trauma and PTSD
  • helps release suppressed grief

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

5 WAYS TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF TO GET MOVING WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT

5 WAYS TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF TO GET MOVING WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT

5 WAYS TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF TO GET MOVING WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT

“The patterns that you repeat on a daily basis will eventually form the identity that you believe in and the actions that you take.” ~ James Clear, Atomic Habits 

We all know how important moving your body is for your physical, mental and emotional health and happiness. But that knowledge may not be enough to create a new habit or move you out of inertia, especially when the weather turns chilly or it’s raining again or your energy is low or your “off days” have turned into “off weeks”! 

If you’ve fallen out of your routine and are feeling a bit blah, make time today to check in with yourself and re-prioritise the areas of your life that are calling for the medicine of your attention. 

I acknowledge that many of us are facing personal, family, and financial struggles as well as feeling the heaviness of world events. My desire is to support and inspire you to make healing choices that create more joy, presence and vibrant wellbeing. 

Here are 5 ways that may help you over the hump to find your movement mojo again.

5 tips to turn on your inner coach + motivate yourself to get moving. 

1. Visualise how good you’ll feel afterwards

Sometimes when you’re stressed or depleted in energy, you can forget that moving body helps to release tension and leaves you feeling uplifted and mentally engaged, especially when you to tune in to your needs and integrate the whole body, mind and spirit (like Nia does).

Picture just how good you’ll feel when you make the time for yourself and give your body some movement medicine! It’s almost impossible to not feel vibrant, awake, and energised when you’re Nia dancing.

2. Find your why

Give yourself a compelling reason to get moving. What’s a fitness or lifestyle goal that is motivating to you?

If feeling better isn’t enough of itself, maybe it’s that you want to reduce the symptoms of menopause, be able to get up and down from the earth with ease, fit last year’s jeans, make new friends, or go for coffee with your community after class! Keep this goal in mind anytime you want to skip a class.

3. Mix it up

They say variety is the spice of life! Variety and consistency are also essential to keep your body systems and your mind healthy. For both physical and mental fitness, we need to keep learning and change things up.

That’s one of the (many) benefits of Nia… there are so many combinations of music and movement plus a different class focus each time, it’s never the same way twice!

4. Make it fun!

In Nia we say “Stop exercising to get fit. Start moving to feel good!” The joy of movement is the secret to sustaining your commitment. If it feels like a chore or a bore, you won’t want to do it.

Find an activity you enjoy, and if you’ve lost that loving feeling, ask yourself what you need to put the FUN back into your movement routine. Learn how to get more from your Nia class experience by taking a Nia FUNdamentals workshop or the Nia White Belt training.

5. Make it so easy you can’t say no

If you’re committed to doing things better than you are now – in other words, if you’re serious about sticking to good habits – then you have to start small. The path to wellness, presence, joy, fulfillment, meaning, and vitality comes through thousands of daily decisions. Those tiny daily habits turn into your routine. Become the kind of person who moves more everyday. Make it part of your lifestyle.

If you’re struggling to find motivation, set a minimum bar for yourself to just get going again. What’s ONE SMALL THING you can do today… and the day after tomorrow… and… before you know it… you’ve… got… momentum!

A 2009 study published by health psychology researcher Phillippa Lally found, “on average, it takes66 days before a new behaviour becomes automatic. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behaviour, the person, and the circumstances – anywhere from 18 days to 254 days.”  Why not start today?

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  ~Aristotle

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

STUDY AFFIRMS BENEFITS OF NIA

STUDY AFFIRMS BENEFITS OF NIA

STUDY AFFIRMS BENEFITS OF NIA

A 2022 study published in the International Journal of Social Work revealed physical mental and wellbeing benefits felt immediately after doing Nia.

This U.S study assessed 56 healthy adults after taking a 1-hour Nia class:

  • 98% agreed or strongly agreed that they felt better in their physical body.
  • 100% experienced their mood improve.
  • 100% felt they had released stress.
  • 96% agreed they had creatively expressed their unique self.
  • 89% affirmed they connected with at least one other person during class.
  • 69.3% of participants reported using Nia class skills in their daily life between classes.

READ MORE

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

WHEN THERE’S TURBULENCE IN THE WORLD, WHAT CAN I SOFTEN?

WHEN THERE’S TURBULENCE IN THE WORLD, WHAT CAN I SOFTEN?

WHEN THERE’S TURBULENCE IN THE WORLD, WHAT CAN I SOFTEN?

 “It’s the hard things that break; soft things don’t break.” ~  C.Joybell.  

With so much turbulence and trauma in the world – personal, local and global – I haven’t felt like writing a newsletter. Sometimes there are just no words…

While our home took in some water in the recent floods, I feel lucky compared to the utter devastation experienced by so many in our communities. My heart goes out to those who have lost their homes or loved ones, and breaks for those in the grips of war. These events affect us all.

As moments of anxiety and distress come up throughout our lives, it is crucial that we give ourselves the space to fully feel and move through them, rather than brace against them or store tension in our bodies. Softening helps our nervous system regulate and return to the calmest centre of our self.

Check in and ask your body now, “What can I soften?” Eyes… jaw… shoulders… heart… belly… legs..?

The practice of turning toward our pain and meeting our suffering with kindness and awareness can support us in opening to greater love, feeling to heal. As we soften and breath into our cells, we simultaneously self-heal and become more humane.

Personal connection with a community can help us feel supported that we are not alone in our feelings, and help us return to the innate goodness of our hearts.

More than ever, we need practices that can evolve consciousness from an “us vs them” mentality to a culture of “we” – practices that move us into our highest vibration and motivate us to act for our collective wellbeing.

Nia moves us into awareness of our sensing body and our energy centres so we can respond with softness as we feel “all the feels” and express our uniqueness. Nia also helps us mindfully connect with one another, to accept without exception, cocreate with joy, and remember that we are all here for something greater than ourselves.

As we raise our own resonance – from fear to curiosity, judgment to compassion, heaviness to aliveness – we uplift not only ourselves, but others as well. Let’s be brave enough to choose to find a way – any way at all – to be a light of hope amidst the darkness.

If you haven’t been to class for a while, I would love to welcome you back. I miss you.

A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS RIGHT NOW

PODCAST Stolen Focus: THIS is why you’re finding the world too much.  Sarah Wilson and Johann Hari (52 mins)

BOOK Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity by Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith

TED TALK How to make stress your friend. Kelly McGonigal (14 mins)

CALENDAR Check the Nia class calendar for changes through April’s public holidays. West End Nia IS on Easter Saturday!

“BREATHE”  Enjoy breathing, stretching and softening with this cool down sequence. Gift yourself a dance break… 6 minutes of music and movement to feel better now!

If you enjoy it, I’d appreciate if you’d like or comment and while you’re there… SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel!

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead