THE GIFT OF MOVEMENT
It’s that time of year when GIFTS are high on our minds. One of my favorite – and amusing – lines from all of my cancer-girl books is about gifts. In Five Lessons I Didn’t Learn From Breast Cancer (And One Big One I Did), Shelly Lewis wisely writes, “Cancer is not a gift. If you honestly think breast cancer is a gift, you can’t come to my birthday.” I love that!
When we think of gifts, and gift giving, we usually think of what we can give to others. Personally, I truly love giving gifts! I enjoy finding the perfect item for someone, I savor the process of wrapping it up and writing an accompanying message or card, and I adore watching the delight on someone’s face when they open up a great gift.
But today I’m thinking about something we can give ourselves … and, as it turns out, it’s also a gift for the people around us.
The Gift of Movement.
Philosopher Doug Anderson observes, “Movement has the power to bring us fully to what is most human about us.”
As a cancer survivor, I’ve made movement a priority in my life – to help recover from side effects (newsflash: yes, they still linger, no it’s not over for me!), to lower my risk of recurrence, to foster my emotional well-being, to keep me strong, and simply to improve my quality of life. And while physical activity is certainly a gift to myself, it is also a gift to my family. I’m a better person when I stay active and take care of myself, and my statistical chance of being here for my family in the long run increases with regular exercise.
In her book, JOY OF MOVEMENT, Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., discusses the elation people feel from movement – running, walking, swimming, dancing, whatever they enjoy. “Movement is medicine for the soul, not just the body.”
In addition to the many physical and emotional benefits of exercise, Dr. McGonigal identifies an additional – and really important – element of movement. It primes us to better connect with others. “So much of the joy of movement is actually the joy of connection.” Walking with someone, we’re more likely to open up. Coming back from a run, we are more likely to engage with our loved ones at home. Walking out of a yoga class, we are more likely to socially interact with our classmates. The parking lot conversations following oncology exercise classes are not a coincidence – “how marvelous it is that by exercising or volunteering in packs, we can forge friendships that nourish us.”
Give yourself The GIFT OF MOVEMENT this holiday season – it’s a quality gift for everyone in your life. I think you’ll really like wrapping it up … and opening it!
Michelle Stravitz is the co-founder of 2Unstoppable, a Sharsheret partner resource and a non-profit organization which helps women with a cancer diagnosis incorporate exercise into their lives. Michelle was diagnosed with stage 2 Triple-Negative Breast Cancer in June 2015 and serves as a Sharsheret peer supporter. For more information about 2Unstoppable, please visit www.2unstoppable.org.