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Wed, May 1, 2013
Listen Up! Learning to Communicate with Your Body
Confession: I have not always been good at listening to my body. During my college years, I can recall countless times that I pushed through tiredness, ate whatever was quick and cheap, and chalked my frequent headaches up to having to sleep in an uncomfortable bed. Even during my graduate studies when I was learning about the effects of stress, I continued to brush it off as no big deal. It wasn’t until years later, when I was completely and utterly burnt out, that I realized how much I had been neglecting the messages that my body had been trying to send me.

According to a national report released by the American Psychological Association in 2010, one in five American adults believe themselves to be in fair or poor health, and those adults who rate their health as fair or poor report higher levels of stress. This begs the question… why don’t we take stress more seriously?

The answer could be that most people think of stress as an emotional state and don’t realize that stress manifests itself in the body, causing serious health complications like headaches, back pain, indigestion, depression, sleep problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Since each person experiences stress in a different way, it is imperative to tune in to the messages that our bodies are trying to send us. If you’re like me and communicating with your body has not always come naturally, here are some tips for getting started:

Take a Body Inventory. Keep a journal next to your bed and take an inventory of how your body is feeling in the morning or evening - depending on when you feel most alert. Watch out for themes and patterns. For example, do you suffer from gastrointestinal problems every Sunday evening? Have you felt groggy and sluggish for the past month? Patterns like these give us information about how stress and other emotions manifest themselves in our body and allow us to take preventative measures in the future.

Do a Body Meditation. Websites like buddhanet.net offer guided meditations that are specifically designed to help you communicate with your body.  These types of meditations, often called body scans, can be done in the comfort of your own home. For people suffering from chronic pain, body meditations can be particularly helpful for checking in with the emotional state of the body and learning to manage pain through deep breathing.

Trust your Body and Learn to Say ‘Thank You’. Our bodies are incredibly wise. It is important to treat your body as you would treat one of your closest companions - with respect, kindness, and alertness. This means learning to cultivate gratitude and trust for your body, and thanking it for both the pain and the pleasure, for both are there to serve a purpose in your life. Awareness is the link between the mind and the body, and the more kindness you cultivate toward your body, the happier you will feel.

In the words of meditation master Deepak Chopra, “Together, mind and body form a whole. It is artificial to separate the two. You cannot have a single thought, sensation or feeling without the body. This includes the most inspired spiritual thoughts, feelings and sensations. All experience has a physical component.”

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