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EMDR Outside of Sessions

Breathing in. Breathing out.
Breathing In. Breathing out.
EMDR Outside of Sessions

My arms swing from side to side as my legs carry me up the hill.  My eyes are subconsciously scanning the trail in front of me to make sure I don’t fall.  I’ve been thinking of many things on my hike today.

What should we have for dinner?

What should I do next in the session with __________?  How can I help them the most?

When is it a good time to gently remind my husband that he’s fallen behind on cleaning the toilet and it’s driving me crazy?  

What do I want to do this weekend with the family?  

I’ve been thinking of writing a blog about this forever. Do I have time today in between all my daily tasks to actually write this?   

I feel amazing during my walk… and for hours after.  Many of us can relate to feeling the benefits of physically moving our bodies, as well as the positive results for our mood.  

One thing that always comes to mind when I’m moving my body is a type of therapy I do called:

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR).  Francine Shapario who created EMDR back in 1987 discovered that she felt calmer and was able to process difficult emotions while she was on a walk.  She then noticed that while she was walking she was scanning the pavement in front of her. She took this information and paired it with her understanding of the brain.  When we move our eyes back in forth (scanning) it stimulates our prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for:

    • Emotional Regulation
    • Planning
    • Decision Making
    • Problem Solving
    • Self Control
    • Acting on Long Term Goals

So when our eyes are scanning in front of us, it is helping us to regulate our emotions, plan, and make decisions!  How amazing!  

Another thing that goes along with moving our body in this way is called polytasking.  Polytasking means to engage in multiple activities at one time that all have to do with one another.  These coordinated movements help keep us in your frontal lobe.  No wonder when we are out moving our bodies and doing repetitive behaviors such as moving our legs back and forth, while we swing our arms, while scanning the pavement, our brains stays in the frontal lobe and many of us feel like we can handle our days better after this.     

Poly-tasking doesn’t just have to be with moving your large muscles:

    • It can also be done while crocheting, moving both your right hand and left hand in differing movements to make a stitch.  
    • Playing an instrument. When you are playing the piano and moving your right hand playing a set of notes while your left hand plays a different sequence, your foot is using the pedals to adjust the pitch, and now throw singing on top of that and you are using your frontal lobe to the max!   
    • It can also be done while cooking: Getting the rice started, while chopping vegetables, all the while making sure you don’t burn the chicken on the grill is activating your frontal lobe.  

Try paying attention to your body and emotions when you are doing activities like this.  As long as your judgement is not sending off questions like:

Will someone notice me at the gym running on the treadmill and judge my body?

What if I burn dinner for my friend? Will she never want to come back?

I have found that as long as I am confident and non-judgmental in whatever task is in front of me while poly-tasking, I get similar benefits to EMDR.  I get to process my thoughts and emotions while keeping my frontal lobe on line which leads to more thoughtful, calm, and mindful behaviors.

Try noticing your feelings, emotions and thought patterns the next time you are doing an activity while moving your body or while sitting on the couch strumming your guitar!  

By Krista Day-Gloe, LCSW, Healing Roots Wellness Center

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