Problem solving, (sometimes) better to take two steps.

Exercise is good for your health. Within the national health system in Great Britain, doctors can prescribe walking, running, engaging in recreational and motor activities. At the base of these prescriptions, the scientific data that show how physical exercise can be considered as a real drug that acts on the heart rate, on the release of endorphins, on the lowering of cholesterol. There is also no lack of evidence regarding the beneficial effect of movement on mental health. Those who start the day with a run or set a walk during the day on their agenda know this well.

The benefits of the movement on psychological well-being do not end there. What role does our body play on professional performance, interpersonal relationships and self-confidence? According to psychologist Kurt Lewin, concrete experience represents the core of the learning process; bodily activity continuously provides us with experiential ideas to develop skills that can be spent in daily life.

Learning is “embodied”

“Cogito ergo sum”, “I think therefore I am”. And if it were more correct to say “I move, therefore I am”? According to some past and contemporary philosophers, and many neuroscientists, psychological processes are influenced by the self-perception of one’s body in its form and, above all, in the movements it performs. This principle is the basis of the concept of “embodiment”. Indeed, we learn to think through everything we have available, and therefore through our body as well. What are the key points of embodiment, of “being a body”?

“Descartes’ error”. According to neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, the separation between mind and body, between rationality and emotionality is fictitious and misleading. Self-consciousness is “embodied”, it develops from the continuous signals that the organs, limbs and muscle tissues send to the brain.

The body is therefore a “sense organ” . Through the mechanisms of proprioception, the body continuously sends signals to the brain; this information is stored and becomes part, by modifying it, of our cognitive and emotional patterns. The inputs coming from the body become mental images that represent the presupposition of thought. Motor activity is always present in humans, both at an implicit level (for example, with the continuous activity of muscle fibers for maintaining posture, walking, etc.) and at an explicit level (with the movements that are made while walking, dancing or with some sporting activity).

Emotions and body. The etymology of the word emotion can be traced back to the Latin emovere ( ex = out + movere = to move ), literally to bring out, to move , in a broader sense, to shake, to shake . Emotions necessarily involve a series of changes in the body state. The increase in the heart rate of fear and anger, the loss of tone of sadness is information that reaches the brain and contributes to the representation of the self. Emotions are therefore psychophysiological changes, embodied information, which help to create mental patterns.

Embodiment, leadership and negotiation: resolving differences one step after another

According to Peter Senge, a lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the founders of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL), contemporary leadership models must take mind-body unity into account. Within the Presencing Institute leadership training programs ( ), participants are encouraged to take long walks in which to share their experiences and discuss the changes they are trying to implement. The rationale for these activities is that walking together can facilitate both personal and interpersonal awareness:

on an individual level , walking supports various psychological mechanisms inherent in “leaving behind” self-limiting beliefs and thoughts and taking a direction towards the future;

on an interpersonal level , walking can allow the interlocutors to experience the synchronicity of movement, “proceeding together”, going in a “common direction” and therefore convergent thinking, empathy and collaboration; walking together with someone with whom you have significant points of divergence facilitates negotiation, the possibility of “leaving behind” misunderstandings and “going beyond”.

It is not yet clear how movement affects both divergent thinking skills (therefore the possibility of looking at things from different points of view) and convergent thinking (problem solving skills based on one’s knowledge and experience) but there they are promising researches that could bring important contributions to improve many organizational solutions. For example, typically, when there is a conflict or a problem to be solved, people are asked to sit on chairs positioned at the sides of a table and exhibit their positions. In practice, people are put in a position in which they can “confront”. It would be very different to invite the participants to take a walk, side by side, and give them the opportunity to talk to each other… proceeding in the same direction.

3 ways to cultivate the wisdom of the body

What are the motor activities that can contribute to change people’s cognitive, emotional and behavioral patterns?

  1. Walk

“Above all, do not lose the desire to walk: by walking every day, I reach a state of well-being and I leave behind every ailment; the best thoughts I had while walking, and I don’t know a thought so burdensome that it can’t be left behind with a walk […] so just keep walking, and everything will be fine. ”(Søren Kierkegaard). Walking opens the mind, frees the flow of ideas and helps increase creativity.

  1. Practice stability and toning exercises

The unconscious perception of physical stability is also the basis of mental stability; practicing activities such as yoga or tai chi contributes to the ability to be present, not to rush unnecessarily often and to carry out one’s tasks with concentration. Muscle strength training can boost self-esteem and make you feel more capable of coping with emotional challenges. In other words, the strength in our muscles, unconsciously signaled to our brains, can translate into a sense of confidence and self-efficacy.

  1. Learn a couple dance

Dance is the physical expression, through movement and rhythm, of relationships, feelings and ideas. It is the essence of synchronicity. Dancing with others has been shown to improve cooperation, prosocial behavior, and the ability to achieve common goals. Dancing the waltz, tango or boogie can help break rigid relational patterns and find new ways of expressing and communicating with each other.

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