During a recent ski vacation, a fall on the slopes quickly changed the agenda from enjoying the great outdoors and thrill seeking to managing a knee brace and physical therapy. It’s certainly not how anyone wants to spend their vacation, yet there was a small silver lining. During discussions regarding how to care for and heal a damaged knee, I was introduced to a helpful little mantra from the world of physiotherapy: “Motion is lotion.”
What does this mean? In a nutshell, MOVE! When we walk, for example, the space between the joints of the knee compresses and expands. This movement causes fluid to flow in and out of the cartilage, providing nutrients it needs to be healthy. Hence, motion gives vitality and healing properties to what is unhealthy, like lotion to cracked and dry hands.
“Motion is lotion.” This catchy little saying seemed to stick in my brain as soon as I heard it. I found myself repeating it throughout the remainder of the trip. The more I said it, the more I thought about how this message could be applied to the psychology world.
How Low Self-Esteem Can Paralyze Us
Upon returning to my practice at the start of a new year, some of my conversations with people focused on goals or actions they believed would positively affect their lives. Thinking through the steps to achieve goals or to make changes can be overwhelming. Sometimes the tasks are decluttering, downsizing, or cleaning-out-the-basement-type goals. Others are health-related changes such as learning yoga or losing weight. Regardless, moving ourselves forward to do anything can feel like pushing a boulder up a mountain.
Our current state of mental health can make action difficult. We may feel “paralyzed” or “stuck,” seemingly unable to take a step toward positive change. When these feelings persist, they may be the effects of depression and anxiety working together. Anxiety causes us to feel restless and worried. An internal voice often accompanies these emotions, saying, “What are you waiting for? Something bad is going to happen. Do something now!” Depression may affect us in the opposite way, leaving us with fatigue, concentration problems, and feelings of guilt or shame. This internal voice says, “What is the point? It’s only going to be a complete failure, and you’ll be right back to where you started from. Don’t bother!” The pull of opposing forces can keep us locked in one place.
We can also be held back by the fear of failure, not allowing ourselves the luxury to make mistakes. To engage in life only when we feel we are assured success not only narrows the world in which we live, but also opens us up for tremendous disappointment when the inevitable happens. Not everything goes as planned.
When we have healthy self-esteem, we can recognize our value and worth despite what happens around us.
If we allow how we feel about ourselves to rise and fall in step with life events, chances are we are struggling with low self-esteem. For example, when we finally get a raise, we feel great about ourselves and our level of competence. Then our coworker points out a mistake in our year-end report, that great feeling plummets and we mentally attack ourselves. If we can’t find a way out of that slump until the next happy event, we may find ourselves stuck on an emotional roller coaster. Attaching our self-worth to events in our day-to-day life sets us up for low self-esteem, which can contribute to depression, anxiety, guilt, and shame.
When we have healthy self-esteem, we can recognize our value and worth despite what happens around us. Healthy self-esteem can give us the ability to move forward and withstand the ups and downs we face. When we aren’t supportive and kind to the person we see in the mirror, everything we try to do can seem like an enormous challenge.
The First Step Is Often the Hardest
When formalizing a plan to reach a goal, we need to look at the whole picture. We may be overwhelmed by all the time and effort the plan will take, the people involved, the cost, etc. What appears helpful in theory may suddenly become an enormous storm cloud. Who would want to take a step forward into all of that?
Change can’t occur without some form of action.
Breaking the goal down into smaller steps allows it to look more manageable and feel more attainable. Yet even this helpful strategy sometimes doesn’t motivate us into action. This is where our new mantra, “motion is lotion,” can prove helpful.
Change can’t occur without some form of action. To move requires one small step, and one small step is “lotion” to whatever we are trying to improve.
Consider the effort it sometimes takes to get ourselves to the gym. How much time do we spend talking ourselves into (and out of) going? Yet, chances are, the first step that gets us into the gym gives us a surge of motivation to continue. After our workout, we may feel more confident about ourselves and our ability to improve our health. Put another way, that first step could be considered the antidote to what ailed us.
The same theory applies to our efforts toward personal change. We can consider the first steps to be the lotion to what needs healed, the salve to what hurts, and the confidence to improve our lives.
How to Get Moving
If you could apply a lotion to your thoughts and feelings to give you happiness and fulfillment, would you slather it on? If you could be assured that a specific action toward a goal would feel good, would that action be worth it? If one step, even a small step, would give you an incremental positive feeling, would you do it?
If our new mantra has made a comfortable little space in your brain by now, why not consider trying a “motion is lotion” experiment? Grab a journal and write your thoughts about goals or changes you want to tackle.
What steps do you need to take to achieve these goals? Be sure to create steps that are attainable. They should be large enough to feel momentum but small enough that you don’t become overwhelmed. You can include other mantras, words of inspiration, or reminders of why this goal is important. As you prepare for the first step, write down how this “motion” will be the “lotion” for what you want to heal, change, or improve.
Return to your journal after step one. Add additional thoughts and feelings that inspire you to keep going. Continue to assess how the action of each step feels and how it changes the way you see yourself. Look at how it brings you closer to healing, health, fulfillment, and joy.
For help with these steps, as well as exploring your thoughts and feelings, seek the assistance of a licensed counselor.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.