It’s time we chat about physical exercise and what exactly a “movement mindset” is, because guess what? There is some undeniable science about how it can be a serious game-changer in your mood for years. That’s major.

I know, I know. Exercise?? Ugh, right?

One of the things that we as mothers (especially brand new mamas) hate hearing – or even thinking – is some version of: “I’ve gotta’ get my body back”, “I wanna’ fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans again” or even just “I need to get in shape.” Or we hear terms like “mom bod” and “mom pouch”.

As you might be able to hear from my tone, I’m not a fan.

I don’t believe that these sorts of terms or thinking is what helps us find our ideal weights or shapes, especially after carrying, nurturing, and giving birth to another human being (or two or more). And by “ideal,” I mean the way that our bodies are designed to be, comfortably. The weight and shape we would be truly peaceful and happy with, if we were alone on a desert island (or, indeed, our couch), with no society around to shame.

I call this “Bodylove” and it’s a complicated self-care concept that requires time to reflect and peel back layers of programming… but today, I want share one of the biggest ways that we can start to like our physical selves:

Creating a “Movement Mindset.”

I first thought of this about seven years ago, working privately with a mom who understood exercise’s value, but hated doing it. So, when we entered it into her calendar each week, we called it “recess”… and that worked! She did it. If we can drop the pressure, step away from the “no pain, no gain” philosophy (because that, at the deepest level, doesn’t work), if we can let a little steam out of the kettle around what “working out” requires, and just focus on moving… ahhh, that’s more doable! Because that makes it at least 1% easier. And when it comes to plank pose or barre tucks or burpees, every percentage counts.

Every time you make movement a priority, that counts, too.

Not just for your body, but even more so for your brain. Movement has dramatic, tangible effects on neurochemistry that you can feel. In short, it can improve your mood; research shows exercise is as effective as drug therapy for depression (and lasts LONGER!).

John Ratey, a Harvard professor and expert in Neuropsychiatry, says “having a bout of exercise is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin.Tal Ben-Shahar, author and former professor of Positive Psychology also at Harvard, says “not exercising is like taking a depressant.

For moms navigating the postpartum years, up through toddlerhood and preschool – regular, ritual movement is a massive mental health superpower.

In fact, it’s so important for mental well-being, I include it in the ‘train your brain’ mental health section of my own CORECARE wellness framework – not with the physical stuff!

Let’s put all this info into practice:

  • Remember, thinking about “exercise” as “movement” can help you actually move more, because it relaxes the emotional corset around the goal of losing weight.
  • As you head into your routine workout – or especially if you find that you avoid exercising – try shifting your mindset from “must-do” to “to move” and see how it helps.
  • A great example mantra for your mindset: “Moving makes me feel good.