About two years ago, I was the fittest and strongest I had ever been. I was smashing the beep test, my running times were fantastic, and my lifts at the gym phenomenal. I was super proud of myself. I had never been this fit – and I was working my butt off to stay that way. My ego loved it, and I wasn’t going to let her down. I was eating clean and rigorously exercising for approximately two hours per day.
However, during this time, I experienced many injuries, I often got sick, I had insane urges to binge and then purge through severe exercise, and my period was MIA for almost a year. My body was screaming at me that it wasn’t happy. I ignored it – until I no longer had a choice and was forced to listen.
We often hear people say that in order to be healthy, we should listen to our bodies. But what does that mean? How do we do that? This blog post will share eight ways that you can start ‘tuning in’ to your body.
1. Keep a journal
Journal writing can be so therapeutic and can really help you learn more about yourself and your body. You can find writing prompts for keeping a journal in my Huffington Post article here. Alternatively, to really zone in on learning to listen to your body, here are three body specific prompts that you could consider using:
- Write down at least one thing that you can do to nurture and care for your body that day e.g., a massage, pedicure, early night, drink lots of water.
- Write down at least one thing that you are grateful to your body for that day e.g., helping you stay awake in that boring meeting, giving you just enough energy to run around after the little ones all day, helping you through that gruelling workout.
- Keep track of what foods you eat, exercise you do, and your energy levels – not to count calories or to make yourself feel guilty – but to delve into how you feel before, during and after certain practice. Do you feel heavy after eating certain foods? Do you have more energy and clarity after doing certain activities? Does going for a run make you feel like you’ve just cleared the clutter from your brain?
2. Start to take note of your warning signs
Our bodies send us warning signs when they’re beginning to feel the pressure. I know that personally when I was over training, some of my warning signs were sickness (ever had a damn cold that haunts you?), niggling or reoccurring injuries, feeling lethargic, and difficulties with sleep. Other less subtle signs included shutting off my period, mood swings, nose bleeds, and headaches.
If we listen, our bodies have a way of telling us when we need more or less of something. When we learn to pay attention to the signs, we can give our body what it needs.
A great way to learn to listen to your body more, is to start a meditation practice. You can use the below simple meditation steps to listen to your body.
- Sit in a comfortable position, with your feet firmly planted on the ground.
- Take a deep breath in. Pause. And then release your breath slowly out. Repeat three times.
- Starting at your toes and making your way up to your crown, scan your awareness through each part of your body. Really live in each part, focusing on how it feels, and what it needs.
- Once you’ve reached the tip of your head, take a deep breath in, and a slow audible breathe out.
- Wriggle your toes, roll your shoulders, gently tilt your from head side to side.
If you have a notebook or journal nearby, write down what you felt during your meditation while it’s still fresh in your mind. Did your hips feel tight and perhaps need you to do some opener stretches? Did your eyes feel heavy and maybe need an early night? Were your shoulders stiff and need a massage? Keep a note and commit to yourself to start giving your body what it needs.
I have a free guided meditation audio that you can use for this purpose – simply click on the image below to get access.
4. Do yoga
On my journey to learning to listen to my body, discovering yoga made a world of difference. As I paused in each pose, I could feel tightness in certain body parts and freedom in others, I could feel my mind resisting what my body wanted to do in fear that it could not do it, I learnt to focus on my breathe and live in the present moment, to scan and readjust certain body parts as they called out to me.
If you are yet to try yoga, I highly recommend that you give it a go. Just like a gym or a personal trainer, there are all different types of teachers and yoga practices. So don’t try one teacher or class and think that represents the whole world of yoga. Try a few – experiment – find a teacher and practice that suits you.
If you can learn to feel comfortable and actually enjoy the mind – body connection during yoga, you will learn so much about yourself and your body.
5. Eat mindfully
Intuitive or mindful eating is another great way of listening to your body. It involves creating a healthy relationship with your food, mind and body and learning to become the expert of your own unique body. This is such a big topic in itself that it warrants a full blog post. However, for the purposes of this article, here are four tips to help you eating mindfully:
- Switching off the TV and other distractions whilst eating so that you can be fully present
- Being consciously mindful of whether you are hungry before, during and after eating – and letting this hunger drive your food choices
- Before eating, asking yourself “will this food sustain me or exhaust me?” (in fact, this is a great question to ask yourself before doing anything really!)
- Being aware of whether you are eating out of physical hunger (because you’re actually hungry) or emotional hunger (e.g., because you’re bored, sad, tired)
6. Slow down. Stop. Be aware. Tune in to your feelings
If you’re anything like me, you are SO busy and are juggling a ridiculous amount of balls. Naturally, we then don’t have time to pause and listen to our bodies. Sometimes, the most simple way of tuning in to our needs, is to just stop. Pause for a moment. Breathe. Go within and ask yourself how you are feeling. During particularly busy and stressful times, I find myself doing this in the strangest of situations – like on a toilet break or in the shower. Sometimes you have to get creative with finding the time to pause and listen to yourself.
7. Trust and foster your intuition
Historically, I’ve been a head person. Someone who thinks things through, considers every angle, and often experiences paralysis by analysis. This year however, I’ve been conducting a little experiment – and have handed the reins over to my heart or intuition. I’ve been going within, asking myself what feels right, and then saying “thanks for protecting me brain, but I’m going to let my heart handle this one”. I’ve been blown away by the results not just in my personal and professional life – but also in my ability to pick up on cues from my body. You see, our mind often works from a place of “I shoulds” whereas our intuition usually comes from a softer and more gentle place, truly connected to what we most need.
8. Start a self-care practice
Some of us are great at creating exercise and meal plans for ourselves, however not so great at looking at our lives holistically and thinking about what we need to care for ourselves. This often includes things like Me Time, pampering, and most importantly – rest and relaxation. It is in these times of self care and rest that we can find ourselves connecting to our bodies and our needs. Developing a self-care practice can be highly beneficial for your health and sanity.
I hope that this article has given you some ideas on what you can do to practice tuning in to your body. The more you practice, the more clarity you will find on what health means for you, what works and doesn’t work for your body, and your own unique path to wellness.
Please tell me in the comments below, what are you going to do this week to try and get more ‘in tune’ with your body?