Increasing trust in your body

Increasing trust in your body

Have you ever been told to ‘trust your instinct’ and ‘listen to your gut feeling’? Many people believe we all have an inner wisdom for what’s right for us and our bodies. So how do we learn to trust what our bodies are telling us?

Modern society is dominated by scientific advances and masses of information. It’s great that we’re learning more about physiology, but the downside is the temptation is to pay too much attention to mind chatter and stop listening to the inner wisdom of our bodies.

Part of the problem may also be our fixation for avoiding harmless negative body sensations.  For example, the media regularly tells us we need to get rid of headaches and stomach-aches by taking a tablet. Of course medication isn’t bad, but hastily popping pills can reduce our ability to listen to our bodies.

Why should I listen to my body?  Our bodies know everything. They feel and experience everything completely and perfectly and guide us towards what is best for us. But if our minds have a different idea of what ‘perfect’ is then we stop connecting with our bodies. And if we let our minds completely take charge then we can start heading towards problems.

The dangers of over-thinking. The continual mental weighing up of what’s good and bad for us can lead to anxiety, confusion, and damaging health choices.  Repeating to yourself that you are fat, a certain food is bad, you are unattractive, too skinny, not fit enough etc can lead to food anxieties, low self-esteem, compulsive exercising, and even mental illness like anorexia.

Why do we think so much? Because we want to be in control. Driving this is often a need to be perfect. Our busy, noisy lives means our listening tends to be directed outward (to all the new information) instead of inward to own body.

Can I always trust my body? Unfortunately, you can’t always trust what your body tells you it needs. Sometimes your body craves something it believes it needs and sends out the signals for it. For example, a strong coffee in the morning to wake yourself up. Is it your mind or body speaking here? You need to listen very closely to your body so you don’t get run by your mind.

How can I increase body awareness?

  1. Listen to your body regularly. Being present will bring you back to your body. Try to ‘feel’ your body rather than tuning into your mind, particularly when you’re faced with any decision. For example, you may feel like you need a swim, but your mind is coming up with excuses not to. Stop thinking, be present with yourself and you will probably find yourself grabbing your swim kit!
  2. Slow down your body. Many people find it difficult to tune into their bodies when they’re busy. This can be helped immensely by taking up a regular activity which relaxes and connects mind and body. Yoga, tai chi, meditation and martial arts such as karate are all good choices.    
  3. Move your body. Physically moving your body when you go to the gym, run, walk etc, gives you an opportunity to really feel your bodily sensations. Try to use several senses.  You can feel your heartbeat, hear your breathing, see your feet pounding, and feel the heat of your blood.
  4. Do exercise you love. Your mind might tell you that you should do 50 push ups every day, or do HIIT, but does your body enjoy doing it? Listen to your physical feelings to discover what you really love doing. This will also help you to stick to an exercise routine.
  5. Feed your body. Pay attention to what food you’re putting into your body. Slow right down and use all your senses to taste the flavours and textures.
  6. Love your body. It’s very hard to trust something if you don’t love it. Learning to love your body may take time if you’re really unhappy with it. Starting to take care of it is the first stage. Committing to exercising regularly and eating healthy food is the most basic and powerful way you can look after your body.  Even if you still feel you dislike your body you’re still treating it as though it’s wonderful.
  7. Build your faith in trust. Ask yourself – what in life do I trust to happen without my mind interfering? These things may be very small like the sun coming up each day, or very large like I trust my partner never to betray me. Either way, it shows that you are able to leave some things to take care of themselves, without your mind interfering.

Learning to trust your body more is like creating a new habit.  It can take a while to switch from ‘brain listening’ to ‘body listening’. Give it the recommended 66 days and review your results then. And let us know how you do.

 

Comments

Mike D.
14 February 2014

Mike D.

This is really about being present in the moment as much as you can. Most gym exercise is good for that, especially when you have to concentrate hard when moves get challenging. Going for a run also can put me 'in the zone' when I feel 'at one' with my body.

Elliot M.
12 February 2014

Elliot M.

My body generally only tells me when I've overdone it. That's normally when I'm nursing an injury!

Tanith A.
12 February 2014

Tanith A.

Here's another vote for yoga. It really doesn't have to be a power struggle, Mary. Who is the "I" who is struggling with your body anyway?!

Mary C.
12 February 2014

Mary C.

I can see where this article is coming from, but as someone who falls into the overthinking category I find it very hard to listen to my body. My body seems to want sugar and caffeine an awful lot and I mistrust these messages, so we have more of a power struggle than a trusting relationship going on!

Sasha B.
11 February 2014

Sasha B.

I think that doing yoga is a great way to slow down the mind and get in touch with your body. If my body is tense then my mind tends to get very busy with thoughts flying everywhere. If I listened to it all I would go crazy! Doing yoga means I can slow my mind down and just be with my body instead.

Phillip H.
11 February 2014

Phillip H.

I'm happily watching the winter olympics, with the snowboarders and skiers achieving insane heights and (mostly) landing safely. Are their bodies saying 'yipppeee!' or 'you've got to be joking'? Great to watch though!

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