What Is Your Body Telling You?

When my colleague read Mind Over Medicine, it changed the way she thought about her health. She said, “Before reading your book, Lissa, I honestly thought my body was none of my business. Now, having read it, I know, without a doubt, it is.”

Many of my patients feel the same way. A woman struggling with a health condition once confessed to me that she thought of her body like she thinks about her car. She’s not a car expert, so when her automobile breaks down, she takes it to her auto mechanic, who repairs it and hands it back to her – fixed.

She had the same attitude about her body. When it broke down, she’d hand her body over to a body expert – a doctor – and pray that the doctor would be skilled enough to fix her.

Is Your Body Your Business?

Is that how you think about your body? Do you believe your body is none of your business? As a physician who spent twelve years of training and ten years of practice learning to become a body expert, I used to believe I knew your body better than you do. I now know that, while I may have a better understanding of the arteries in the leg and I may wield a scalpel more expertly than you, nobody knows your very unique body better than you, and nobody is better equipped to prevent or treat illness than your brilliant inner doctor, which I call your “Inner Pilot Light”.

Your Inner Pilot Light is that part of you that knows what’s true for you and can help you align your life with that truth. When you make life choices that are out of alignment with your truth, the body reacts with physical symptoms that, left unchecked, become disease.

Think back to a time when you knew you were out of alignment in your life. Maybe you were out of alignment in a big way – cheating on your spouse or embezzling from your company or abusing your child. Or maybe you were out of alignment in more subtle ways – selling out your integrity in a soul-sucking job or drinking yourself to sleep every night or staying in a relationship with someone you don’t love. If you can remember how your body felt during those times, chances are good that your body didn’t feel so hot. You may have had headaches or gastrointestinal distress or a flare up of a skin condition or allergies. Or you may have just felt fatigued. But I’ll bet your body was signaling to you that you were off course.

The Body Compass

Our bodies are brilliant that way. They act as compasses, letting us know when we’re headed in the right direction – and when we’re not.

When Martha Beck and I were training doctors in the Whole Health Medicine Institute, Martha led an exercise to help us get in touch with your body compass.

Heading South

Martha asked us to recall a time in our life when things went really wrong, inviting us to close our eyes and go to that very dark place in our minds and then locate the feeling in our bodies. We then named those feelings – “acid stomach,” “constricted throat,” “clenched chest,” and so on.

Try it. What do you feel? Now give it a name. That feeling is your body’s way of saying “You’re headed due South! Head the other way, pronto!”

Heading North

She then invited us to visualize a moment when everything was going brilliantly right and to locate that feeling in our bodies. We named those feelings too – “butterflies in chest,” “wide open throat,” “belly full of light.”

Try that too. What do you feel? That feeling is your body’s way of saying, “Due North! Go that way!”

Using Your Body To Make Decisions

Trying to make an important decision? Ask your body compass? Now that you know what due South and due North feel like, see if you can register the more subtle variants. Martha suggests using your body as a metric, with due South being -10 and due North being +10. When a new opportunity arises, check in with your body. What reading do you get? Is it a +4? A -2? Or a completely neutral 0? These somatic sensations can help you make the right decision every time.

When The Body Manifests Physical Symptoms

The body compass exercise registers subtle physical sensations that wouldn’t usually get labeled as symptoms or illness. But what about when you get full fledged symptoms, like a headache, reflux, back pain, nausea, or – as I shared in my personal experience – vertigo?

Are you in touch with what your body is trying to tell you? Can you identify the root cause of your physical symptoms, something deeper in your psyche, or something out of alignment with your Inner Pilot Light?

In this post on Owning PinkSteve Sisgold, author of What’s Your Body Telling You? teaches us how to determine our body awareness quotient (BQ). What’s yours?

Let Your Body Be Your Guide

Next time you experience physical symptoms, ask your body what it’s trying to communicate. Not sure what your body is saying? In Mind Over Medicine, I include an exercise intended to help you interpret what your body is telling you. (Preorder Mind Over Medicine here!).

Do you have experience listening to your body’s signals? Share your stories here.

Learning to listen,


Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD: Creator of the health and wellness communities LissaRankin.com and OwningPink.com, author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), TEDx speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary. Join her newsletter list for free guidance on healing yourself, and check her out on Twitter and Facebook.

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Morgan Hartman
Morgan H4 years ago

neat way of looking at things; I've done the exercise of paying attention to my body's feelings when considering different decisions to see which one "sits best" with me

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra5 years ago

Thank you Lissa, for Sharing this!

Carolanne Powell
Carolanne Powell5 years ago

There is a psychosomatic component to every illness.

B Jackson
BJ J5 years ago

Have always been amazed at the intricate workings of our bodies, even when we don't take care of them the best. Have learned to listen to what mine tries to tell me.

Marie Therese Hanulak

Though I've done some serious abuse in my hey days, I've always communicated with my body and still do.

Shirley S.
Shirley S5 years ago

We only have one body so it pays to look after it.

Billie C.
Billie C5 years ago

my body gave up 8 years ago and said enough fool i quit. to bad it can't be fixed. listen to your body and when it says i'm not feeling right it means it do something about it.

Ron B.
Ron B5 years ago

It's telling me, "Act your age---you're not in your 20's anymore!" But it's still more fun this way sometimes. I'd rather keel over hiking on a wilderness trail someday than fade away slowly in a retirement home.

Nicole W.
Nicole W5 years ago

noted, thank you

Laurie D.
Laurie D5 years ago

Seriously??? If I DIDN'T know my body well, some silly Doctor's treatment would kill me! I broke a wrist just a couple weeks ago and the Concentra Urgent Care doc informed me ALL metal is inert... Guess he'd never heard of mercury, aluminum or nickel! And yes. SOME OF US (namely me) are allergic to stainless steel! SHEESH!! If you don't know your own body by now (and stand up for it) doing so starting today would be a good contribution to YOUR longevity!