Why do people neglect each other

Johannes Michalak: "Many people neglect the body in the home office"


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There is no bike path to the office, the fitness studio is closed. In the home office, the psychological stress increases, but the physical balance is missing. Psychologist Johannes Michalak knows why body and mind should be given equal attention right now. The 53-year-old is professor for clinical psychology and psychotherapy at the University of Witten / Herdecke and deals with mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and embodiment in clinical psychology.

ZEIT ONLINE: Mr. Michalak, in your research you are concerned with how body and mind influence each other. What does posture say about the mental state?

Johannes Michalak: Our body is our base. Without it we couldn't think or feel. Our body also has a major influence on whether we feel good or not. If someone suffers from severe back pain due to a bad posture, it can hit the psyche. It also works the other way around: Anyone who suffers from depression, for example, tends to have a slumped posture. The body reflects how the psyche is doing. This interaction of body and mind is called embodiment, translated the word means embodiment. Especially now, when many people work in the home office, the body is quickly neglected and priority is given to thinking. This leads to an imbalance and general well-being can deteriorate.

ZEIT ONLINE: How can you counteract this?

Michalak: Embodiment research has shown that there are movement sequences that can normalize the perception and memory of depressed people, at least in the short term. In one study, we found that an upward and opening Qi Gong exercise in depressed patients leads them to focus more on positive things and on a greater number of specific events that have taken place on a certain day and place , remember. The subjects who performed this movement showed a lower tendency to remember mainly negative things, while a downward and closing movement had no such effect. You can not only come into contact with the body through movement, but also through meditations or mindfulness exercises. If you want to go inside yourself and listen more to your own body, you can do a body scan once a day, for example. You lie down comfortably and then wander with your attention as best you can without evaluating from one region of the body to the next, usually starting with the little toe of the left foot. This has the effect that you concentrate fully on your body and learn to be more in the here and now. Step by step, you can learn to let go of your past experiences in the office or home office or your plans for the future.

ZEIT ONLINE: What can you watch out for during work so as not to neglect your body?


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Michalak: Anyone who sits at the computer a lot should feel into their body regularly and be clear about whether they are comfortable or would prefer to change their posture. Are the shoulders hunched forward or hunched up? Is the back bumpy or hollow back? Do the feet have good contact with the ground? An upright and relaxed posture can have a positive effect on emotional processes, it can also contribute to working in a more concentrated and stress-free manner. In this way you can learn to change your posture more often and achieve better physical balance. You can also correct your posture if you tend to adopt incorrect postures such as a hunched back or hollow back.

ZEIT ONLINE: How do you manage to keep reminding yourself?

Michalak: I am currently in the home office myself and notice that it is a challenge to be mindful of your body. In the beginning it can help to set an alarm clock every half hour. When the doorbell rings, you make conscious contact with your body, see how you are feeling and, if necessary, change your sitting position before continuing to work. It doesn't take a lot of time, but it helps keep the body better - and with it the mind. If you have got used to bad posture over the years, it can help to set up a mirror at the workplace in which you can check your posture. One should also accept that in the first few weeks it does not necessarily have to be comfortable to assume an unfamiliar posture. The body is used to the misalignment and may initially perceive it as challenging and exhausting if it adopts a healthier posture. You should stick to the matter continuously, not overwhelm yourself and accept that it will take a while before you can see progress.