Whether you believe your body is a gift from God or a beautiful accident that evolved over billions of years, you’ve gotta admit: the human body is an extraordinary thing. And it’s been around for a looooong time.
We’ve endured ice ages, famines, drought, cataclysms like supervolcanoes and even our own stupidity for hundreds of thousands of years–all while thriving in every climate imaginable. That’s a lot of survival experience. But most people don’t give their body any credit for the uber-advanced machine that it really is. And instead of listening to its intelligence, we’ve been conditioned to ignore the wisdom of our bodies.
When it comes to listening to our bodies, our brains might be a little too big…
Most other animals yawn, stretch, nap, sleep, have sex, eat, drink, and play whenever their little bodies tell them to; they don’t have brains capable of rebelling against their instincts. But along with our miraculous bodies that regularly beat horses in 50 mile races, we’ve been given enormous brains that create structure. And the structure of modern life often prevents us from doing natural things and listening to our bodies.
So we work till we’re burnt out, ignoring our bodies’ signals to rest and relax.
We exercise to the point of injury and fatigue.
And we eat according to the clock, not our stomachs, either stuffing or starving ourselves.
The concept that our bodies know how to be healthy and happy seems almost ridiculous in the modern world. But, when you start tuning into your beautiful body, and listening to its signals, you will find a wealth of vitality that’s promised to every living creature, and that’s impossible to put in a pill.
I found that the easiest way to listen to my body is by asking the simple question, “What’s my body telling me?” If I start feeling stressed or overworked, I’ll ask that question and listen for the answer. Sometimes I have an immediate urge to lie down and completely unplug from whatever project I’m working on, which was hard to do at first. But after I found out how much better I felt when I gave my body what it wanted, and how much better I worked after a little rest, listening to it got easier and more rewarding. So I ask more frequently.
I’ve gotten in the habit of asking what my body needs when I feel like reaching for a sugary snack. Sometimes I definitely need a carby boost—especially when I’ve exercised a bunch. But most often my body is actually telling me to drink water, which gives me far more energy and focus than a rush of sugar would.
The easiest place for me to listen to my body’s wisdom is out in nature. (Go figure!) When I’m walking on paths in the arroyo near my house, sometimes I’ll hear it say, “Go go go!!!”—and I’ll sprint like mad up a hill till it says “Stop stop stop!!!” Other times my body hints that that lazy-boy-sized rock overhanging a 30 foot cliff would be the perfect place to stop and take in the scenery. 15 minutes later, after soaking in the beautiful mountain vistas and pondering life, I feel a transcendental peace and wellness that nothing else can give me. And the more I listen to my body, both outdoors and in, the more pronounced my feeling of wellness is throughout all of life.
There are a few activities that enhance your receptivity to your body’s wisdom: Meditation, walking and journaling are a few I recommend doing on a daily basis. But what you don’t do might be even more important.
1-Don’t watch TV when you eat.
TV-watching while eating is associated with weight gain because it distracts you from listening to your body:
Am I full? Do I need to eat the other half of my plate?”
2-Don’t exercise to exhaustion
Your body knows exactly what it can handle, and when enough is enough. The fastest way to get out of touch with the signals your body sends is to ignore them—which is pretty much what everybody does when they’re trying to get in shape by running and lifting weights. So, rather than shooting for a “hardcore” workout, aim to be hardcore in your consistency. Instead of exhausting yourself with a five-mile slog, energize yourself with a mile or two run at whatever pace your body says is best. If your two-hour gym workout is putting you on the couch for hours afterwards, opt for several smaller bursts of exercises through the day—whenever your body says, “Go!” And if your body says to skip working out for the day, listen up.
3-Don’t do electronics before bed.
Your body will normally tell you when to go to bed not long after the sun sets. The absence of blue light from the sun allows your pineal gland to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone. But, when you flood your eyes with blue-light from backlit screens, your melatonin production halts, which makes it impossible to listen to your body’s natural sleep signals. Opt for a quiet book under an incandescent lamp instead.
It’s safe to say that your body is a pretty amazing thing. And considering that over half of our neurons lie outside of our brains, the rest of your body technically has functional intelligence of its own. So listen to it.
If you’d like help in transitioning to a natural and healthy lifestyle, check out my coaching program.
Originally published at millennialsuccess.io