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Movement to Flourish

Integrating Your Mental and Physical Well-Being

Most of us know that physical exercise has numerous benefits for our overall well-being, but sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to prioritize movement, especially in modern lifestyles which are often quite sedentary in nature. In this course, dive deep into the psychological science of how movement powerfully influences our experience of our emotions and our moods. Explore how to move with purpose, discover practical ways to move more, and understand the fundamentals of movement to flourish.

What you can achieve with this course

  • Understand that psychological well-being is experienced in the body through our emotions and through the effects of “endogenous drugs.”
  • Explore the evolutionary foundations of both physical activity and rest, and why our instinct to sit often overpowers our desire to move.
  • Understand the role of dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and endocannabinoids and how to create a virtuous cycle that keeps you moving.
  • Discover how vigorous activity, active sitting, and interrupted rest each contribute to reduced inflammation.
  • Experiment with linking your physical activity with different aspects of well-being:  learning, connecting with others, playing, competing, and contributing.

Course Host

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Leona Brandwene serves as the associate director for Penn’s Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program and works alongside the MAPP instructional team to ensure a world-class educational experience for students in positive psychology. Along with her work in positive psychology, Leona is a coach and consultant in health care, with a particular emphasis on building cultures that enable high-performing teams. She loves running, family, and supporting youth sports in her community.

Course Plan

Week 1 - The Link Between Physical and Psychological Well-Being
The Basics: This week we will discuss the physiological and psychological impacts of exercise, how our bodies and brains are connected, and how your physiological responses to exercise influence your brain.
Week 2 - The Link Between Movement and Cognitive Function
Moving to Learn: Let's focus on how exercise helps us to learn and stay cognitively sharp, and by learning to leverage the connection between the two allows us to be at our best.
Week 3 - How Physical Activity and Social Connection are Inextricably Linked
Moving to Connect: Positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, a sense of meaning and purpose, and accomplishments – better known as PERMA. This week we will turn our eye to the ‘R’, or the social connections that merge with movement.
Week 4 - Prerequisites, Projects, and Play
Moving With Purpose: A modern day gym would be an exercise in wasting energy in the eyes of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. We are wired to want to accomplish something, so let’s discuss bringing purpose back into our lives.
Week 5 - Planning for Setbacks, Moving for a Joyful Life
Putting it All Together: We need a rescue plan in place for when we have long periods of inactivity in place. So let’s look at how we can put all we’ve learned so far so that we stay the course.