We know about mental and emotional intelligence. These days, we're even discovering the powers of Artificial Intelligence. But what is physical intelligence? And, how can it help us live more happily? Authors Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton say it's 'about actively managing the balance of body chemicals through breath, posture and thought.' It's about balancing brain chemicals so we can achieve more. Studies show we're 45% more likely to have an innovative idea while walking - as opposed to sitting. And steady, paced breathing is said to increase our cognitive function by over 60%. This is physical intelligence at work and there are 4 key components to it: strength, flexibility, resilience and endurance. We unpack these ideas below...
The 4 key components of 'Physical Intelligence'
Ever been faced with a confrontation and, rather than standing up for yourself, you give in and don't say what you really mean? Surely, this happens daily as we deal with bosses, co-workers, clients and even our kids. But, with a bit of physical intelligence, you'll be strong enough to tackle any situation with confidence. After all, strength is about channelling physical and mental stability in order to stand your ground, take risks, and do the right thing.
Next time you're confronted and not feeling all that strong, remember these physical changes can help. Try opening and expanding your body, says Claire. By taking up more space, we boost our ability to feel empowered and increase testosterone levels through expansive posture. Stand up straight, unlock your shoulders and plant your feet flat on the ground. See how this physical movement can improve your focus and confidence.
This crucial component of physical intelligence is what allows us to move on and recover when things go wrong. Resilience leads to a stronger 'immune system' so we can face tough situations in the future with knowledge and agility. The optimism hormones serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine can help you do this. A good physical intelligence technique is to see setbacks as opportunities to learn, rather than failures. Because, according to Claire and Patricia, optimism and resilience go hand in hand.
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Holding on to setbacks can feel like wearing a heavy coat - you carry an extra weight with you all the time. Use your physical intelligence to imagine taking that coat off and moving forward without the weight. Literally take a step forward. Any movement can help improve your mood, like running or skipping made you feel happy when you were a kid. To boost your resilience, optimism and overall physical intelligence, it's important to get moving. Take a brisk walk, hit the gym or try bouncing on a trampoline. The benefits are huge.
This component of physical intelligence helps you roll with the punches, and adapt to the changes life throws at you. It'll also help you manage stressful scenarios. Flexibility is about being creative, adaptable and believing in your own abilities to thrive in any situation. And, according to Patricia, 'flexible people are more innovative'. When faced with a curve ball, it's easy to tense up and brace yourself for what's coming. But this can actually hinder creative thinking and prevent you from dealing with a change in a positive way.
The four flexibility hormones include oxytocin, dopamine, DHEA (the precursor to testosterone) and serotonin. We need them to be in balance if we're going to be adaptable and physically intelligent. Relaxing your muscles and releasing physical tension will help stimulate your brain and get you thinking more creatively. Think about where you're holding tension and unlock it. Try a few stretches and deep breaths. Varied movements also help spark innovation, so feel free to walk while you're on the phone. Or deal with a work problem while you make coffee. A bit of unstructured chaos helps boost creativity and forces you to be more flexible.
This kind of staying power is critical in achieving overall physical intelligence. Endurance is about sticking things out, using strength and determination to reach your long-term goals. The brain chemicals involved in this step to physical intelligence are DHEA and dopamine. DHEA helps with muscle strength and confidence, while dopamine gives you that feel-good high when you tick off one of your goals. And, the more goals you reach, the more confident you'll be about sticking with it and tackling the next thing on the list.
The other thing we need in order to endure is positive reinforcement. 'Positive feedback changes the body chemistry,' says Patricia. So, it's great if you have supportive people in your corner who can help pick you up if you're feeling drained or overwhelmed. A bit of encouragement goes a long way in helping you reach your goals. And think about how you can uplift those around you. So that you create an environment that supports confidence and endurance.
So you see how by mastering physical intelligence, you're able to deal with everyday challenges more easily. Leaving you free to achieve more, stress less and live more happily.
To find out more about how physical intelligence can improve your life, grab a copy of Claire and Patricia's book, Physical Intelligence.