How to Listen to Your Body Better, In 7 Easy Steps
You’ve probably heard it before: “Listen to your body.” The common advice of health gurus around the world, listening to one’s body has become one of those catch-all phrases that seems to encourage mindfulness as a path to wellness. However, this is easier said than done. If you’re not really familiar with what it means to listen to your body, getting started on the mindfulness path can be difficult.
Even if you consider yourself a generally healthy person, you may be feeling the effects of stress, fatigue, weight gain, skin problems, insomnia or other health concerns. Learning to really listen to what your body is telling you is the first step toward curing these kinds of ailments. Here’s a step-by-step guide you can use to zero in on your body’s needs and regain balance.
Eliminate Extraneous Offenders
The first step toward becoming in tune with your body is to eliminate any extraneous substances, thoughts or foods that could be getting in the way. If you’re on prescription medications, you’ll obviously want to talk to your doctor before making any changes to your routine, but otherwise, try to progressively phase out drugs (legal or illegal), alcohol, caffeine, and anything else that may be altering your mood, pain levels or energy levels.
After you’ve done away with any substances that alter your physicality, turn your focus toward the foods you eat. You don’t need to eliminate anything from your diet right away, but start getting in the habit of paying attention when you eat. Avoid mindless snacking — when you start getting full, your body will be speaking to you to tell you as much, but you won’t be able to hear it unless you’re paying attention. Get in the habit of eating your meals at a table, without distractions from TV, your cell phone, the computer or any other media sources.
Track Your Symptoms
Now, you’ll begin tracking everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. Track what you eat, how tired or energetic you are, what pills or supplements you take, the strength of your libido, any aches or pains, your mood, your sleep patterns, how much activity you get in your day … the list can go on and on. Over time, you may start noticing, for example, that you are especially tired on days when you eat muffins for breakfast, or that you tend to break out a few days after eating dairy. Be warned though: It will take at least a few weeks to notice patterns, so don’t give up if nothing is apparent at first.
Research Nutritional Deficiencies
Now that you have some knowledge of what you put into your body and what symptoms often arise, do some research on nutritional deficiencies related to your symptoms. Perhaps you’re vegan and often have a difficult time with breakouts before your period. Now that you’re aware that your skin tends to break out at a certain time of the month, you may begin realizing that you need to consume more sources of healthy fat in order to manufacture the hormones you need to achieve hormonal balance and avoid breakouts. Whatever is ailing you, spend a few hours looking into nutritional needs related to that problem.
If you identify a nutritional need and begin adding it into your diet, take note of the results. Did the nutrient do what it claimed to do? Perhaps it does some things, but not others. In that case, you may need to make some adjustments. For example, maybe you have been eating an antinutrient, such as soy, that blocked the absorption of an important nutrient. This is just an example, but you will find that by tracking your results, you can identify what works and what doesn’t.
Start a Yoga Practice
Yoga is very important for learning to listen to one’s body. The entire practice of yoga is about being present while expanding the senses. The practice uses manipulation of the body to strengthen the mind, and it’s an incredibly beneficial skill to learn for anyone interested in mindfulness.
Related: 10 Yoga Poses to Improve Circulation
Check In With Your Body During Meditation
Finally, set aside some time each day to meditate. It’s perfectly okay if this overlaps with your yoga practice. At the end of your session, lie on your back or sit cross-legged, and progressively “check in” with each part of your body. Feel the way your feet touch the floor, and observe any sensations in them. Are they tingling? Sore? Light? Energized? Well-stretched? In pain? Move from your feet all the way to the top of your head, observing your body as you go.