As a physician, I get a bit concerned by the exuberant New Year’s Resolutions I hear from my patients: “I’m going to lose ten pounds!” (that I just gained between Halloween and Christmas), or “I’m going to go to the gym EVERY DAY!” (and I hate the gym). I’m concerned, because, well, typically these are unrealistic and fleeting resolutions. And my patients fail because they are focused on the wrong thing altogether. These resolutions are typical of the “mind over matter” health philosophy that our culture loves, and that fails us, over and over again. It fails us because, well, our mind is NOT OVER our matter. Our mind IS our matter — it is part of our body. The split of mind and body leads us to believe we have to discipline our bodies with the strength of our “higher” mind and will (Google Descartes and mind/body split if you want to geek out on the history here). The result still haunts us: we believe that our mind and soul are pure and noble and our body is, well, bad and needs to be controlled.
Headline: You are your body. There is no separation. Your thoughts are nerves firing, neurotransmitters being released and received. Your thoughts influence the physiology of your body because your thoughts are physiological. Trying to control your body by making yourself do something you hate, for a future outcome, is doomed to failure.
We need to stop silencing the messages of our bodies and start listening to our bodies. Becoming body-wise instead of body-stupid. Which is why when one of my patients needs to exercise a bit more, my first question is, “What do you enjoy doing?” (#whatdoesyourbodywanttodo). If you love dancing, then by all means, do Zumba, or ecstatic dance or adult ballet or whatever floats your boat (or body). Because if your mind and your body want to do it — it is much more likely to happen!
Disruptive question. What would your life look like if your body was in charge? You may immediately be thinking that everyone would be having sex all the time (which might not be terrible), but I beg to differ. When I was lucky enough to be observing lion prides in the wild — bodywise beings if I’ve ever seen them — I can assure you that they were not copulating constantly. Nor were they gluttonous beasts eating whatever was in their path. To my astonishment, the giraffe seemed to know when the lions had just fed and would walk nearby to get to the watering hole. In other words, lions eat when they’re hungry, not when any delicious looking giraffe just happens to wander by. And they sleep, a lot. They are living according to body intelligence: moving for pleasure or need, sleeping or resting when tired, eating when hungry and when they can bring down prey.
What would your life look like if you lived a life your body loved?
What if you moved for pleasure, for play, for self-expression and the natural satisfaction of being in motion? What if you ate as if your body were filling your plate with all the nutrients it wants for optimal function? What if you slept or rested when your body was tired? What if you found love and companionship and affection when your body craved it?
Descarte and mind/body dualism be damned. We deserve to have lives of passion and play — not because we are indulging addictive whims, but because we are listening, closely, to our body wisdom. Not because we are controlling our dangerous, libidinous, gluttonous body cravings, with our “more perfect mind” but because we celebrate the wants and needs of our bodies, and try to meet our body’s needs as best as we can.
So what would BodyWise New Year’s Resolutions look like?
Here are a few suggestions:
- I commit to eating only when I’m hungry and to pausing to breathe before eating, to be sure that what is on my plate is what my body truly wants.
- I commit to resting, even briefly, when I feel tired during the day, and to sleeping enough that I wake rested most mornings.
- I commit to moving at least every 30 minutes of my day, and finding vigorous movement that I enjoy for at least 120 minutes a week.
- I commit to listening to my body’s signals and stopping activities or positions that cause me pain, prior to injury.
- I commit to listening to my body’s need for love, affection and companionship and to find friends, community and lovers to fill those needs.
- I commit to discovering the source of my symptoms and to begin healing my chronic body depletion and chronic pain in 2017 — to becoming BodyWise.
Be the lion of your life. Listen to the deep wisdom in your body and have the vibrant and vital life you deserve in 2017.
Originally published at medium.com