Ignore your cravings. Force yourself through gruesome workouts. Skimp on sleep to get more work done.
Do any of these sound familiar?
Each one of them is a way to muffle our body’s needs in favor of what we think is best for it. Each phrase, or some variation of it, is whispered in our ears day in and day out. After a while, the messages become pretty hard to ignore.
As a culture, we train ourselves to fight our instincts.
Through years of disordered eating, I have lost touch with my own intuitive cues. Sometimes it feels as though my body is a foreign object; I have developed so much disconnect between my mind and my physical self.
A large part of my journey towards self-improvement has been regaining trust and connection with my body. Now I will be the first to tell you that this is not easy.
In fact, it is a constant struggle. Some days I will be flying high, living life in the present and acting based on what I feel.
Other times, my mind gets the better of me. I will rush through busy days, paying no attention to my instincts. Fear is often what pulls me out of an upward spiral- no matter how good it may feel to go with my gut, the brain can be overpowering.
I end up attempting to manipulate myself as a feeble attempt for control. If you are like me, you may appreciate these three simple exercises to reconnect with your body. Each one will assist you in returning to a primitive state, where we are naturally able to fuse the mind and the body.
1. Breathe deeply.
This is my favorite way to check-in with myself when I feel like I’m going off the rails. Focusing on the breath instantly brings me back to reality. I try to be mindful of how the air flows through my body. I evaluate how it makes my stomach rise and fall, my chest expand and contract. It calms and centers me, but most of all it establishes a relationship between myself and our species’ primary life force. When I feel connected to the breath, I feel connected to my body as a whole. It forces me to be more conscious of what is right for myself.
2. Do a full-body scan.
This has a similar effect to breath work, in that it increases awareness of physical sensation- but on a much broader level. In this exercise, you lie on your back or sit comfortably and close your eyes. Then, you begin to scrutinize each part of the body, starting with the face/head and moving all the way down to the toes.
You take note of where you are holding tension. Pinpointing where energy is flowing and where there is none. The ultimate goal here is to create balance within the body, but before that can occur you must become aware of where there is imbalance. Full-body scans enable you to clearly hear your visceral demands. From there, you can determine what work must be done in order to satisfy them.
3. Keep a journal.
The primary content should be actions (what you ate, how you moved, what activities you participated in) followed by your mood and feelings. Recording your habits in such an order reveals what makes your body function best and what isn’t so great for it.
When you actually take the time to recognize these correlations, you can hone in on what is truly the healthiest choice for you. This may mean rejecting publicized norms about what we “should” do to achieve health.
Take nutritional claims, for instance. Cruciferous veggies are loaded with fiber and nutrients. But if you find they cause you indigestion and bloating, then forcing them upon yourself is a no-go. Likewise, if your brain is telling you to wake up and hit the treadmill but you are feeling fatigued, allow yourself that extra hour of sleep.
For me, journaling reinforces the little things that make me happy. It also brings to light practices that aren’t as great for me as I thought. Life is too short to be unenjoyed because I am speeding through it or filling it with things that don’t bring happiness.
As you integrate these three exercises into your life, seek patience. One cannot be perfect at syncing up with their body’s cues- especially in this day and age when there are so many forces working against us.
What we can do is strive for perfection and accept that we may land somewhere along the way. Wake up each morning with a clean slate, ready to pause and listen when you find your head taking the lead.
I would love to hear about what methods you all utilize to reconnect with yourselves- feel free to share!
Also by Quincy: Should You Workout Less? Signs of Over Exercising
Related: 3 Practices to Love Your Body
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Photo: Sokoloff via Unsplash