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All I could hear were the sounds of the water.

Floating on my back in the Pacific recently, my family splashing nearby, I closed my eyes and let my body rock with the waves. I took several deep breaths and noticed the warmth of the sun on my face, the taste of salt on my lips, the refreshing coolness of the water on my skin. I felt . . . content.

The ocean is my happy place — and it’s the scene I imagine when I’m back home and stress is high and schedules are hectic.

I identified this in 2018 during a session at the Institute for Functional Medicine’s annual international conference. Integrative-medicine expert Keesha Ewers, PhD, author of Solving the Autoimmune Puzzle: The Women’s Guide to Reclaiming Emotional Freedom and Vibrant Health (among other books), was sharing ideas for supporting our rest-and-digest system — also known as the parasympathetic nervous system — in our daily lives.

I remember her prompting us to picture a place that is calming, along with all the sensory elements that make it so. Then, she encouraged us to write about it and reminded us that we could visualize this place anytime we need it, no matter the circumstances and no matter where we are.

Since then, I’ve imagined floating in the ocean many times and am grateful to have it as a self-care resource, especially these last few years. But to be physically back in the water once again? It felt like coming home.

I’ve thought a lot about the times in my life when I’m content — feeling joyful and focused in the present. And I’ve realized, perhaps ironically, that it’s often when I’m in motion.”

In the months since that getaway full of peaceful floats, I’ve thought a lot about the times in my life when I’m content — feeling joyful and focused in the present. And I’ve realized, perhaps ironically, that it’s often when I’m in motion.

It’s when I’m running, usually a couple of miles in. Finally hitting my stride, I suddenly find it easier to put one foot in front of the other. (An upbeat playlist of my favorite songs helps me stay in the moment.)

It’s when I’m lifting weights, usually in those minutes and seconds between sets and reps. During a recent deadlifting session, I felt elation as I celebrated a heavy-for-me set and prepared to go for one more.

It’s when I’m dancing on Saturday mornings, focused on keeping up with the choreography of my favorite livestreaming Dance Jam class, a ridiculous smile plastered on my face. (Shout out to performer Nikki N., at Life Time in Chanhassen, Minn., for motivating me to cut loose!)

It’s when I’m shooting hoops with my daughters, encouraging them as they practice their skills and recalling my own glory days of basketball.

It’s when I’m playing pickleball with my husband, and we’re rallying toward that final point.

It’s when I’m paddleboarding across the lake during the too-short Minnesota summers. Despite my arms burning a little more with each stroke, it’s impossible to dwell on anything but the beauty all around: the reflection of the trees and clouds on the water; the mist rising with the sun; the ripples as my paddle dips below the surface to propel me forward.

I could go on, but you get the point. In all of these instances, movement is joy for me — and I bet you might have an example or two like this of your own. If not, then I hope this issue, and articles like “How Olympian Mechelle Lewis Freeman Is Helping Others Find Their Strength” and “How Positive Emotions Supercharge the Effects of Exercise,” inspire you to seek out activities that bring you joy. Because movement can make a difference — for your health, yes, but for your happiness too.

Jamie
Jamie Martin

Jamie Martin is Experience Life’s editor in chief. Follow her on Instagram @jamiemartinel.

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