Let’s start with a question. Do you feel your body? I know it may sound ridiculous to ask it. You know you have a body and you feel it. Do you really though? When was the last time you stopped, took a breath and noticed what is going on in your body?
These days more and more of us are aware of the concept of the mind-body connection which describes and explains how our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning. In other words, your mind affects how healthy your body is!
A frequently used example of this connection, and one most of us are familiar with, is how your body responds to stress and that constant worry and stress over your job, finances, relationships or other problems can cause tense muscles, pain, headaches and stomach problems and lead to high blood pressure or other serious health problems.
In recent years the mind-body connection has been researched more and more and is better understood than it used to be. Sounds great? Not really. You see most of us are stuck living in our heads! We have a six lane motorway to our bodies and only a cycle path back!
I’ve seen this lack of body connection happen many times during sessions with some clients continually talking and distracting themselves rather than feel their bodies or lifting their heads to check where my hands are on their bodies because they have no idea!
We’ve trained ourselves to have a washing machine head stuck on a seemingly permanent and continuous cycle of work, money, self worth, image, anxiety and worries with no time to pause and notice what’s going on in our bodies. We’ve dulled the connection with our bodies and become experts at ignoring them. We’ve even created myths, beliefs and mantras to disregard the messages our bodies are giving us to ease off or stop.
Over the years, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard a guy in a gym telling his training buddy that he has a bad shoulder with his buddy replying “No pain, no gain”. I then watch in horror as the bad shoulder guy lifts, winces and struggles and does more damage to his already damaged shoulder! Then there’s the other favourite “Pain is simply weakness leaving the body”. It isn’t. Pain is the brain’s signal that your body is unsafe, wants to tense up to protect itself and there is a possibility of damage happening.
Taking notice of your body is seen as a weakness. You’re supposed to overcome and push through pain and it’s only wimps give in. Listening to your body is for the feeble. It’s the mind that matters. Really?
Now whilst there are times when you undoubtedly need mental and physical tenacity to push through discomfort, apathy and procrastination you also need to know the differences between damage and potential injury and extra effort! With our busy and time poor lives we’ve relegated our bodies to second place instead of giving them equal billing with our minds and are usually only forced to recognise our bodies matter when something goes wrong with them!
The trouble with living in your head is it deprives you of the incredible tools and resources your body has to support you, keep your life in balance and enrich your existence. Living becomes a mental tick list and you miss out on so much with your life being needlessly hard going.
Dismissing, or not tuning into, what your body is telling you impacts your health, energy and quality of your life detrimentally.
When you live in your head you end up thinking you are feeling your body rather than actually feeling your body. You are hyper vigilant, hyper sensitive, miss warning signs that your body is struggling and become less sensitive to touch. You end up living in the future or past and rarely in the present which is where your body takes you!
Examples of Head Living
- Running fixated with your Garmin or wearing headphones.
- Eating whilst watching television.
- Ignoring the ache in your shoulders and neck sitting at your desk because the report must be finished.
- Cuddling someone because that is what you are meant to do.
- Lifting a weight because your training plan tells you to.
- Sitting in the bath texting on your phone.
- Sexual activity being a set piece and tick list.
- Walking down the street on your phone.
Your body reflects your life through sensations, posture and movements. It enables you to widen and deepen your experiences and keeps you present and engaged rather than being distracted.
A run becomes a changed experience when you get rid of the technology and run ‘naked’, notice how your body feels and look at what is going on around you. Sitting in a bath is very different when you stop texting, put your phone down and feel the warmth of the water soothing and relaxing you. Cooking shifts when you focus on the smells of your latest creation.
Your body is the greatest feedback loop you have about and for you and your life’s experiences. If moving your body feels harder and more challenging than usual instead of ignoring it take notice and do something about it. It is not about becoming neurotic or paranoid. It is simply a case of checking in and using all of your senses and resources for you.
Training yourself to become aware of and develop your mind body connection into a conscious two way process opens up incredible possibilities and opportunities for changing and improving your health, body, performance, well-being and life. Instead of ticking a list off in your head your experiences change each and every time. You can even stop a washing machine head!
You live and experience your life through your mind and body and store your experiences, their impacts and outcomes, in your mind and body. Living your life fully isn’t about your mind or your body. It’s about both because you are both.
- Reduce time with technology. This is about reducing and not stopping completely. Start small with no devices when you train/exercise, banning your mobile from meal times, swimming…
- Take a breath whenever you are waiting for anything – a bus, the kettle to boil, the snooze on your alarm clock going off – again, friend turning up in a pub, at the doctors…
- Get out and into nature.
Till next time…
Enjoy the day you create.
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