How to be smarter, lose weight and live a more quality life.

Spending a year working as a tour guide in Japan I came back with many learnings, but as a lover of movement and nature these two I focused on more intently.

We often here of Japan being a leader in technology, or quirky trinkets, strange fetishes, and tradition. To me I saw Japan as an epic adventure a picturesque wonderland not only leading in technology but in mindfulness, nature connection and movement. Could these things be the key to why the Japanese are the healthiest nation and the happiest?

On many of my trips I would often have passengers comment on the number of Japanese tourists visiting places with international guests, or taking time to enjoy one of the oldest traditions of “Hanami” (flower viewing). One thing I respected most was the continuous maintenance of their land and history, to have the ability to move forward with modern research but to not forget their heritage and core beliefs.

Another thing passengers were amazed by was the lack of gyms, or even personal trainers. It is more popular to engage in community fitness like run groups or dance groups in parks then to go smash a body part for an hour in a box.

A huge difference I have noticed since being back in Australia in physical activity or even just day to day life is the minimal to no social interaction we have. No matter where I went in Japan, you would be acknowledged. In Australia I have to go out of my way to make eye contact with some people to give a smile or a hello. Why are we so scared of one another?

There was a time when I was doing sprints in my local park and I actually got “hooted” and cheered to keep going. You were encouraged to move, it was celebrated from dawn to dusk, with people of all ages enjoying numerous activities from throwing and catching, soccer, dance, running, exploring, yoga, tai chi, jump rope, flying kites, etc. There was no judgement or questions, they moved for the joy and love of moving and motivated each other to continue.

Growing up we are being categorized, you’re either an academic or an athlete, almost forced to choose one or the other and discouraged to do both. We’re put in boxes again of either being runners, tennis players, dancers and then again discouraged to do more.

What happens however, when we isolate our bodies and minds to do one thing is we develop bad habits both physically and mentally. We lose certain connections with systems and muscle groups and even our human interaction.

Well I’m a mover, we’re all movers and we’re all thinkers and we’re all creative and we should be encouraged to open our minds and bodies daily for optimal development for all of these will integrate to assist your continuous life development.

I was reading studies today on sensory development and what I found was a lot of research in children and specialised autism groups. Our sensory systems are something that need daily exercising. Our 5 senses are. Taste, smell, touch, sound, and hearing. By categorizing us at an early age into those groups above we can stunt the development of our sensory nervous system. It is the first point of contact from our environments to our brain that then initiates the type of response from our body. You can imagine the effects this blockage is having on us. The inability to communicate efficiently, the inability to be present and conscious in a situation, the inability to carry out movements and tasks, the inability to adapt to changing situations.

We are influenced by our senses all the time, the smell of something delicious can direct our bodies to that place, the smell of something bad could direct our bodies away. A sound can excite us, or a sound can make us nervous or scared, we can activate our memories through our senses taking us back in time to another situation or place through thought. To develop these skills are vital for intellectual, creative and physical growth.

I experimented further today with connectivity and spatial awareness. I went kayaking earlier and took notice of my posture and centre of gravity, what happened with my body if my thoughts were directed forward. Did my shoulders roll in, did my jaw clench. I lifted up from my pelvis to improve my posture and breathed deeply into my abdomen to relax my shoulders. What happens when I change surfaces, if I was on sand or if I walked up hill, down or even walk backwards? There is shift in our bodies and our centre and to adapt we have to not only be conscious internally but also to our environment as well. If we are not encouraged to explore outside, touch or taste new things this system cannot be developed. We’re closing in our minds by closing in our environments. For some, especially as the weather cools down we could easily go from our home to our cars, to an office, to a gym and back to our homes. All controlled environments with little to excite us to assist us in growth to avoid mental health and physical health diseases.

When we’re outside even if you walk the same trail everyday it will never be the same. The weather changes, the sounds of the animals change, our bodies may feel different depending on our emotional state. Be aware, be conscious to these differences and you’ll be amazed at how stress levels decrease, how your body lightens and opens and your mind awakens. It is from the awareness within that we can then shift our attention to our external environment and cues as well.

During your meals are you present? Or do you simply see a time and schedule a meal, inhale the food and continue back to your routine? The way we ingest and digest our food, our fuel source is vital to the energising of our brains and bodies. To nourish all senses you need to be conscious. What does your body crave? Aesthetically how does your food make you feel? This was something that I learnt a great deal from the Japanese who always took such pride in the presentation of the food in front of them. Are you aware of where your food came from? It’s scary how food is perceived, not just by children but adults in the false belief that the cleanest and healthiest foods come from a supermarket, or say the words, “organic.” Eat seasonally, pick your food from your own veggie garden, research a little so we can have something that separates us from the robots we’re becoming. Pills and powders are additives not a meal.

Each day try to include all 5 senses.

Here’s an example of how you can as soon as you wake up.

Touch- From the minute you wake up feel the warmth of your partner, or heat of the shower on your skin.

Taste- Your breakfast, don’t just pour cereal and munch actually taste the flavours in your meal.

Smell- The fresh air, or the bad breath of your partner either is awakening your sensory nervous system

See-Allow your eyes to adjust. The first thing I do when I wake up is open my blinds to greet the sun and see the colours its reflection makes around my room.

Hear- The day is awaking, do you know many different species of bird is living by you? Can you differentiate the different calls?

In every movement in everything you do be aware.

I love this recent clip from Neurokinetic therapist Old Mate Wellbeing who with his therapy treats the source of pain or dysfunction instead of the symptom. The clip explains the body compass method to perceive your centre of gravity to increase awareness to your body’s base of support. Check it out. Body compass demonstration

If you’d like to learn more about spatial awareness and exercising your sensory nervous system I’m loving the Alexander technique for some great guidelines and information.






Published by jdv05

I'm an Exercise Scientist leading Personal Training and active tours around Parks Victoria protected spaces of Warburton and the Mornington Peninsula. A lover all things movement, incorporating nature into our sessions and personal workouts. I spent 2014 in Japan working as a tour guide and researching trails and writing active trips for both Australia and Japan. I enjoy competing in fun runs and trail runs, with my favourite being the Two Bays trail run. You can check out some of my workouts and fitness tips on my personal blog, Qualifications include: Bachelor in Sport and Exercise Science, Certificates III and IV in fitness, Level 1 instructor in Mat Pilates, Wild fitness trainer, Level I and II boxing instructor, Surf instructor.

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