The Body Patterns of Joy

This week my film-loving partner was horrified to realise I hadn’t seen the cartoon Inside Out. Some hours later, once work was finished, and dinner plates were in the sink, we curled up on the sofa to watch it. Perhaps you’ve already seen it! If you haven’t, I can recommend it. It’s a beautiful cartoon that looks at the life of a young girl and her family from inside the brain- with the Emotions at the brain’s control panel each having their own characters in the story.

Each memory is coloured by its emotion: gold for joy, blue for sadness, red for anger (etc) and stored in either long-term or core-memory, depending on its power! A little like what really happens at the end of our days. Each person in the film has their own Emotions at their helm, leading to some hilarious moments when Anger gets control in both girl and father’s brain!  When Joy was at the helm: a hug from the parents, a win at hockey, a fun moment with friends, were all stored in a globe of memory, making their positive way into the memory banks whilst she slept.

When Joy was concerned that the little girl wasn’t happy, she’d send a joyful memory for her to look at and remember. And it reminded me of when, in a more difficult period of my life, I would do just that too. Work through my little list of people who loved me just the way I was, or memories of beautiful days, or moments in days, to help me find my equilibrium, and turn my blue towards gold. 

In contrast to how we respond to anxiety,  emotions of contentment or happiness can correspond with greater muscular relaxation, more space across the chest, the shoulders able to move back and down, the head being freer, a change in breathing speed, and being and feeling more comfortable in our skin. 

When I think of a happy memory, I can bring that memory into my thoughts, but I can also allow it to sink into my heart, like an emotional sunbeam. From there it can spread its way outwards, from my face to the tips of my fingers and down to my toes. I can feel my muscles softening, my eyes widening, my breathing softening and slowing. 

Koala soaking in the rays. Photo Credit: Carles Rabada @Unsplash

It’s also what I do before walking on stage, bringing my thought of an emotion into a more embodied sensation. It allows me to communicate, to be open, it gives me more stage presence. I might be nervous, but I’m non-verbally communicating joy. Which might sound contrived or ridiculous, but I have discovered it to be a lovely way of getting rid of my stage anxiety. If I’m filled with joy and contentment, Fear isn’t in charge of the Control Panel in my brain, so I can play more easily. Whether you’re a performer or not, it’s still a great way of feeling good!

Here’s what I do. Try it out:
Choose a memory where you feel happy and relaxed. 
Allow that thought into your head, and give it colour, smell, sensation: what do you feel under your feet? What smells come to mind. What are you touching with your hands? What’s the weather? Can you feel the sun on your face if its warm? Allow the memory to permeate your skin, until it fills all of you. What happens in your face, your neck, your chest, your arms, hands, fingers, bottom, legs, feet, toes?

Let’s add in some movement- (if you’re in a public place you can imagine it!) But you can otherwise try this in every kind of position: lying, sitting, standing: 
Breathe through your nose, where possible, and comfortable for you. As you breathe out, fold yourself inwards, bring your shoulders towards your knees. Allow your head to look down towards your knees, and roll your Pelvis backwards, so your waistband moves backwards, and you begin to round towards a foetal position. Sink, collapse, easily, and gently. There’s no pushing, or strain, just what feels nice, what feels comforting. 
As you breathe in, open a little, bring your waistband forwards, and allow the spine to join in. Allow the head to float upwards, so you find a movement of your whole self with your breath.

It’s the movement of your inner jellyfish or sea- anemone. Gradually, allow the drifting outwards on the in-breath to be bigger than the folding in, until you feel yourself opening like a sunflower in the midday sun. Imagine the sun’s warmth on your face with the inhalation. Allow that warmth to permeate through you.  Use whatever imagery works for you, whatever colours fit yourself. This is just one of my options.
Stop when you’ve had enough and see how you feel. How did that work for you? It’s simple, of course, it’s not solving problems, but perhaps allowing you to be in a more relaxed mindset from which to start.

If you discover something, have an opinion, or would simply like to share your thoughts on this week’s topic, write a comment, or drop me an email, I’d be pleased to hear from you.

If you’re interested to find out how to join me in exploring and improving the way you move and live, please check out my Group Lessons, Individual Sessions, or Workshops pages. If you’re not sure what’s best, get in touch.

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