Too often in the west, people look to their doctors to identify and fix what’s wrong with their bodies. However, another person can’t live inside your skin. As such, you can become the best physician of all by learning to listen to your physical cues.
Tragically, many people learn to disregard the physiological signs of trouble as they grow and mature. Regulating your emotions doesn’t mean ignoring your feelings and sensations. Here are six tips for getting in touch with your body and finding out what it needs right now.
You have one of the most powerful stress-busting tools in the world available anytime and anywhere. It doesn’t cost a dime to use. All you need to do is tune in to your breath.
The simple act of observing your inhales and exhales leads you to smooth them out, deepening and lengthening your airflow. Pay attention to how your belly and chest rise and fall with a gentle rhythm. Learn how to practice 2-to-1 breathing to tap into your body’s rest-and-digest function, breaking the fight-or-flight panic that makes thinking clearly in a crisis such a challenge.
Food is medicine. Eating the right variety can do everything from boosting your immune health to improving your mood. Luckily, mother nature provided humans with a handy alert system that cues you into what nutrients you need most — cravings.
You might associate the word “cravings” with a negative connotation. However, that could be because they don’t always compel you to make the healthiest choices. For example, excess cortisol production can prompt you to crave foods high in fat and sugar to prepare your body for a continued onslaught. The problem isn’t a fault in your innate system, but rather the signals getting crossed — your physical self doesn’t know you can’t outrun your unpaid debt the way you could a hungry lion.
However, at other times, your cravings provide valuable clues to what your body needs. Have a hankering for seafood? It could be because the precise blend of omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients in fish do everything from maintaining healthy eyesight to preventing Alzheimer’s disease to fighting depression. If you’ve been feeling a little down lately, your body might be craving foods with the nutrients to help fight the blues!
Likewise, nuts are high in nutrients like selenium and magnesium that benefit mental and physical health. A single Brazil nut contains your entire day’s RDA of selenium and could help ease symptoms of mental disorders like anxiety.
While you should think twice before ceding to that donut craving, pay attention if you start desiring other foods. Take a tip from pregnant mamas — the meal you want most probably contains vital nutrients your growing body needs.
Talk about negative associations — you probably think of all pain as “bad.” While it’s certainly unpleasant, ignoring your body’s sensations means missing out on vital clues that something’s wrong. Ignoring these signals could make minor problems worse.
For example, symptoms such as unusual fatigue could signify cancer, as do swollen lymph nodes. They could also mean nothing more than a slight common cold or even stress taxing your immune response. The only way to know for sure is to see your doctor for tests.
Another technique you can use to get in touch with your body and find out what it needs is to perform a body scan. This exercise helps you identify areas where you hold psychological tension, often leading to physical pain.
To begin, find a place where you can sit or lie down quietly. Focus on your breathing to help center your awareness inward. Then, draw your attention to each body part, starting at your feet and working your way up to the crown of your head.
Pause to identify any areas that feel tense or tight. Breathe relaxation into these areas. You might need to repeat this exercise several times for maximum relief.
Think about what you do every day for a living. Chances are, you can handle it most days without breaking too much of a sweat. Now, reflect on your first day on the job — remember how awkward and unsure you were?
The point of this mental exercise is to make you realize that getting in touch with your body and finding out what it needs works better when you commit to doing so every day. Mindfulness takes practice like any other habit, and using these techniques when you aren’t stressed makes them come more naturally when crunch-time hits.
Start a regular practice of mindfulness. You might do nothing more than incorporate one 5-minute activity into your daily routine each day. More dedicated mind-body fitness types might find solace in regular yoga or meditation practice.
What does your body need right now? Follow a few simple tips to get in touch with your body and see if it can help you discover better health!