How to Listen to Your Body and Heal Yourself
You have a doctor inside you. For a great deal of health issues, your body is capable of telling you what is wrong and how to correct it.
But it is only capable of doing this when you are free from the things that cloud your bodily awareness, or your awareness of your own body internally. When free from distractions, your body can communicate to you through symptoms and sensations.
What Distracts You
So what clouds your ability to hear the messages your body is sending you?
1. Giving in to external cues. When we were babies, we knew when we were hungry and when we’re full. We were deeply attuned to our hunger and fullness cues. We were fully able to listen to our bodies.
But somewhere along the way, this ability weakened as we started following what others told us to do: what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. We no longer listen to internal cues to stop eating. We depend on external cues.
We also lack awareness of the factors that drive our behaviors.
2. Unhealthy habits. Unfortunately, we also develop unhealthy behaviors and that don’t allow us to sense what is going on in our bodies.
Addiction to alcohol, drugs, smoking and seemingly harmless everyday food ingredients like sugar and salt drown out the signals that our body is sending us. People tend to use these addictive substances more when they feel bad or stressed as a way to smother these unpleasant feelings. As a result, we fail to pay attention to the internal body messages.
3. Consumption of toxins. Toxins and chemicals that disrupt your endocrine system also decrease your body awareness. Toxins can come in the form of industrial chemicals, phthalates, and pesticides—all of which can be found in our surroundings and in the food we eat. These endocrine disruptors not only wreak havoc on your hormones and immune system, but also damage your nervous system. Effects like brain fog and lethargy can make you more likely to ignore signals that your body is sending you.
4. Stress. Many of us are constantly on overdrive in pursuit of goals. With so many things to do, we tend to overlook the signals or set aside the signs that our body sends to tell us to rest. Despite signs of stress like tension headaches or muscle pains, we continue to push ourselves past our limits. We forego sleep in exchange for a few more hours of working, watching TV, or socializing with friends.
Long-term stress or the continuous heightened response to stimulus keeps adrenaline and cortisol levels up, which elevate your blood pressure and increase your heart rate. This state of constant stress wears us out physically and mentally, which makes us more likely to ignore internal body signals.
We are also being distracted by factors that cause us stress in the first place. Lack of proper sleep and rest, abnormal exposure to light, daily anxieties, and even abnormal preoccupation with the past or some future event are just some of the factors that cloud our perception of what is going on in our bodies.
We become deaf and blind to what’s happening inside our bodies and just start paying attention when the signals become incapacitating or too big to ignore, usually in forms of chronic pain or serious diseases like heart disease or cancer.
Clearing Your Bodily Awareness
1. Pay attention to how you feel. We have been born with the ability to listen to our bodies. The first step to rebuild your bodily awareness is to pay attention to how you feel. The most obvious ones you’ll hear are body aches and tension, but you should first pay attention to your breathing. Focus on your inhalation and exhalation. Notice your breathing. This should help you become aware when you’re anxious, so you’ll be able to slow down. This is a simple mindfulness exercise that will help you become more aware of your body.
2. Do a body scan. Another mindfulness exercise that you can do for five to ten minutes each day is the body scan. It starts with a comfortable lying or sitting position. With eyes closed, you will start to mentally scan your body from your feet up to your head. Pay attention to how each part feels. Take note of any sensations that each body part feels, like pain, itch, warmth or cold, and so on. This practice helps you slow down so you can intentionally listen to your body.
3. Take breaks in between tasks. How often do we rush from one task to another? Deliberately slowing down and taking quick breaks in between tasks allows you to hear internal body messages like hunger, sleepiness, tension and others. It helps you respond to these signals in a timely manner.
4. Don’t use caffeine or stimulants when you feel tired - You are better off sitting and closing your eyes for 10 min or if you can, taking a short nap. Each time you use caffeine instead, you deplete yourself just a little more. It’s fake energy, like putting money on a credit card on an overdrawn bank account. You are going to have to pay it back sometime and if you are already in debt, the payback will be harsh eventually.
Clearing your bodily awareness mostly involves relaxation and mindfulness. Like vehicles, our bodies also need regular checking and maintenance. Give it the attention it needs. Listen to the wisdom of the body.