We live in a very “head-centered” culture.
From a young age, we are encouraged to “figure things out,” to “think things through,” and to analyze, explain and achieve.
From the educational system to the workplace, our culture’s routines tend to emphasize working with our minds and deemphasize connecting with our bodies—especially since the advent of computers and smartphones.
Many of us have created routines that counterbalance this. We might go for walks, we may garden, we work out or run, or we may take a salsa class. And this stuff is great!
Living in such a mentally-oriented society means our awareness of our bodies is still often confined to the hour or so a day we set aside for it. However, our bodies are incredible sources of wisdom, knowledge, joy, and comfort.
As we age, we can encourage our own health, happiness and even our skin’s radiance just by listening to our bodies regularly—in a way that’s truly integrated into our daily experience.
So how do we tap into and stay connected to the wisdom that resides in our bodies, when our culture is constantly encouraging us to stay in our heads? Here are a few things that I’ve found useful in staying connected to my body…
Turn discomfort into a positive reminder.
If I’m feeling anxious, stressed, upset or frustrated, I find my first tendency is to go straight to my head. I’ll tell myself stories about the thing I’m frustrated with, or try to figure out how to solve the problem that’s causing my anxiety (even if it’s unsolvable!), or analyze my upset feelings to try to get to the root of it. Sometimes these strategies work.
But I find that if I remember to pause, and stop thinking for a second, and if I tap into how my body feels, it has a double benefit. It often makes me feel better more quickly—and it also reconnects me to my body.
Once I started practicing this regularly I found it really improved my quality of life. So now, when I’m anxious, instead of going over and over that anxiety in my head, I just tune in and ask myself, where in my body am I feeling this feeling? Oh, it’s in my chest? Great, let me just take a few deep breaths into that area. My shoulders are up around my ears? I’ll spend two minutes stretching.
By practicing this, uncomfortable feelings become a positive reminder to reconnect with my body.
Use your body in decision-making.
Crazy idea, right? But cutting edge science about the mind-body connection shows that our bodies often know what we should do before our minds do.
When we’re making a decision, at work or at home, our minds can play out endless scenarios, tracking all the pros and cons.
But again, if we just pause for a second, and ask our body how it feels about the choice we’re facing, we’ll often get a really direct answer.
Know how people talk about having a “gut feeling?” Our “guts” are actually connected to our brains through the vagus nerve, a major part of our nervous system—and they communicate with our brains, if we listen!
There’s a reason we think of “gut feelings” as reliable, because they often are.
Take micro-breaks to reconnect.
Spending a half hour or hour on dedicated physical activity is fantastic. But taking micro-breaks in our daily activities to stay connected to our bodies is just as important.
I like to set a timer on my phone, so every 45 minutes I get a reminder to stand up and stretch. I also may spend a couple minutes focusing on my breath, or even do a little yoga or take a dance break if I’ve got the space!
It’s amazing how just a couple minutes can shift me into a totally different space. Also, reconnecting with my body regularly helps me feel grounded, present and happier!