If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that we often reference the idea of “listening to your body.” It’s a concept that seems painfully simple and totally obscure: After all, you’re inhabiting your body 24/7: Of course you’re listening to it. Right? Wrong.
The reality is, we live in a world where our attention is constantly diverted. Just think about your day today – chances are you were paying more attention to the texts you were receiving during lunch than to the way you felt physically and emotionally while you were eating lunch. This is why we all need a little reminder of how to listen to our bodies – and while we’re still figuring that out ourselves, here is how we've learned to do so along the way.
It’s hard to pay attention to your body when you’re doing a million other things at once. So, one of the easiest ways to better listen to your body is to stop doing so much. Maybe this means taking a digital detox; perhaps it’s consciously focusing on one project at a time. Even doing the simplest thing like checking your email less can create some much-needed headspace to better hear what your body is telling you.
Be open to new possibilities.
Ever noticed how scheduled and/or “autopilot” your day-to-day existence is? Tomorrow, try being open to trying new foods, taking a different commute to work or testing out a new, random routine. The kicker: Let your body act as your guide. Maybe it will tell you it’s craving more water versus your usual morning coffee; perhaps it will take you on an ambling walk home from the office versus your usual efficient route. Be receptive, be unquestioning and enjoy the new possibilities your body is opening up for you.
Pay more attention around mealtimes.
If you’ve ever hungrily scarfed down dinner while watching the evening news – and then felt bloated and gross after – then this one is for you. Feeding your body is one of the most important ways you take care of it, but we often fail to pay attention to this critical act. As such, try being more mindful before and after you eat, taking care to listen to what your body needs (“more greens, please”) while picking up on subtle cues (“you can stop eating, I’m full”). You’ll be amazed at what you begin to recognize and, chances are, you may address some nagging digestion issues, too.
Engage with it!
I find the most effective way to listen to my body is to get moving. Whether this means a long walk, a short sprint or a thoughtful yoga session, moving my body often puts me in the best position to hear what it is telling me and recognize underlying areas of tension, pain or even strength. But the key is doing this all “mindfully,” i.e., without outside distractions. So, if you can help it, avoid checking emails while on the elliptical and try to unplug from the news while on the treadmill. Ready? OK, dance party!