Expressing + Processing Emotions Through Movement 

By Becky EbertApril 8, 2024

Writing this, I am a bit sore and a heck of a lot tired. I probably need to drink some water and get better (read: more) sleep tonight. One could argue I drink too much coffee and stay up later than I should consuming art within the hours found just before the clock strikes midnight. It’s a balance though, between things that feel good and things that bring good. I’m not an expert in the art of balance, but I am experienced in making valiant attempts at figuring it out—or at least figuring out what works for me.

Most of the time, it feels as if there’s not enough time for the list(s) of things I want or need to do. Those lists of wants and needs, however, often overlap—like with meditation, socialization, sleep, counseling, and movement. Yes, movement is something I would put in the center of a Want vs. Need Venn Diagram. Perhaps because our bodies were designed for movement, albeit different forms of movement depending on our abilities and preferences.

When talking about mental health, one might not instantly include movement in the treatment or maintenance plan. But the scientific studies that showcase how our mental and physical health are interconnected exist (and thank goodness for scientists because this girl leans right in the brain hemispheres). But to put it plainly: as you tend to your mental health, your physical health will often be affected, and vice versa. It’s pretty cool when you think about it.

Most recently, within my own mental health regimen, I returned to therapy after a six-year hiatus. As my counselor and I unearth some suppressed emotions and experiences, I have found myself relying heavily on two outlets: journaling and walking. While both have been fixtures in my life for the last decade (I’m a writer at heart and I walk my dog religiously), I’m witnessing an uptick in my desire to engage in them—especially when it comes to processing and expressing my emotions.

The way I see it is that as these emotions, old and new, arise, they ask for two things from me:

  • To be understood, acknowledged, and accepted.
  • To be processed and expressed.

Journaling allows me to give these emotions meaning, to put language to the feelings. The words I jot down let the emotion exist outside of my body and mind. But that acknowledgment isn’t really enough. In order to be released, they need to be expressed or processed. Movement isn’t the only way to do this—another option for me is to create art that embodies the feeling—but if you patiently tune in to your authentic self, the ideal method might arise.

So, the other night following a particularly intense therapy session, I flip-flopped between wanting to paint some intense, angry mountains and going for a brisk walk. At that moment, although I had already walked my dog that day, I felt drawn toward putting my sneakers on and hitting the pavement. It wasn’t a long stretch, but the music was loud and powerful and my pace matched the rage. Whereas I’ve been taught in the past to see anger of any kind as shameful (surprise, there is something known as healthy anger), I was now allowing myself to feel, express, and process what had been suppressed. And guess what? It worked. Sure, that emotion is still there intellectually (I can recall it, talk about it, consider it), but it is no longer hijacking my body and consuming my mind. I would like to think that through movement, I have processed it, even just a part of it for now.

Movement gives us the opportunity to quite literally move the energy created by our emotions through and hopefully (eventually) out of our systems.

While therapy, medication, art, and a myriad of outlets play a role in caring for our mental well-being, movement is, in my opinion and experience, a piece of the puzzle, an integral part of that individualized treatment plan. And I say “individualized” for a reason. Movement exists on a spectrum, just the same as people and their needs, preferences, and abilities. What feels good, doable, and healing to you may take a different shape than what I default to. And again, that’s pretty cool when you think about (and embrace) it.

So when you consider making your mental health a priority, and you really should, remember that your physical health is woven into the fabric of that complex tapestry.

Your mind talks to your body, and your body talks to your mind. I would even consider them to be friends when given the chance to truly connect—all in an effort to keep you alive and well.

The wires might get crossed, and systems can short-circuit, but with some tinkering, you’ll find what works best. Maybe you’ll even find that elusive delicate balance.

You are worth the effort.

On May 25th, 2024, TWLOHA is inviting you to join us for the Move For It 5K+. It’s a fundraising event that honors the connection between our minds and our bodies, and encourages us to make our mental health a priority through movement. And because we need a variety of tools to build mental health resiliency, your registration comes with access to a digital Introductory Mental Health Toolkit that features guides, worksheets, coping skills, and hot takes from licensed mental health professionals.

You can join and learn more by going to

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Comments (1)

  1. HAUZ

    3 years sober, an adult of intergenerational trauma, not only did I understand, relate, and felt this in my soul coming back from a weekend deep in the woods mining precious stones and foraging the abundance of spring. It’s morel season! The revelation you have gained through processing your trauma in hindsight. Listen to your body. If gods creatures weren’t meant to do so, birds wouldn’t be able to navigate, farm animals wouldn’t lay down during lightning, marine life would miss the seasonal shifts in currents where oceans meet. It is exactly what separates our species from most. Conscience of spirit. In science, essentially everything is made of atoms, all connecting linked in chains and interacting like fusion or combustion in a web. You exist. You are seen. You are felt. God do I pray for you to look in hindsight with satisfaction of life experience and expectations. I learned in sobriety, expectations are only obstacles you created and will cause failure. It’s the fear, the insecurities, the selfishness, and being self centered. Do what you need for yourself, there is no need to always do it in isolation. And yes, there is righteous anger. Choose your battles wisely though. Not every hill is worth dying on. There’s plenty in the Himalayans..

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