One of the fundamental lessons taught in elementary school is how to listen. As we grow, this directive takes on many meanings—listen to your parents, listen to your teachers, listen to your friends, listen to your boss, listen to the music. But perhaps one of the most critical listening skills we can develop, especially when it comes to health and wellness, is listening to our bodies.
Today’s world involves so many distractions—especially electronic distractions—that we all suffer from a bit of an attention deficit. But identifying those distracting offenders in our lives can help us refocus attention to the present and back to our bodies.
To listen to the body requires being present in time and space. Are you guilty of taking a phone call from a loved one while simultaneously scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest? Couples go out to dinner only to spend their special night together with iPhones out and heads bent down. People walk the streets like zombies, scrolling through their phones and running into one another. All signs point to cyberspace being more important than real time. But ask yourself, if you put down your handheld and turn off the radio or television, what would capture your attention? Perhaps the first flowers of spring, an adorable dog or child walking down the street, or even an inspiring act of selflessness. How does it feel to experience these types of moments? Studies show that shutting out distractions and being present leads to a greater sense of satisfaction, stress relief, lower blood pressure, pain reduction, improved sleep, and improved mood—all with no side effects!
Once present, your ability to listen to your body is heightened, yielding monumental health benefits as you learn to trust in your body’s innate ability to detect and correct imbalance. For instance, your body will mount a fever when it encounters a virus. The heat you feel is the increase in your body temperature as it works to eradicate the intruder. That heat is a sign that you need to slow down to allow your body to use its energy for the fight. Another scenario is when you are sick and lose your appetite. This is your body telling you it needs to focus its reserves on immune support and healing, rather than on digestion. If you listen to your body and acknowledge your lack of hunger, you can adapt your eating habits accordingly. And when you plan a challenging workout, but feel exhausted after a long day, listen to your body and stop pushing yourself. Exhaustion is a sign that your adrenals are drained. Heavy exercise will only further drain you and lead to health consequences potentially worse than exhaustion. The way you feel truly means something! If you listen, the signs and symptoms your body alerts you to can be interpreted by you and your medical professional to diagnose vitamin deficiencies, adrenal fatigue, mood disorders, food sensitivities, arrhythmias, and other serious health concerns.
- Disconnect to avoid being disconnected. When you’re walking outside, put your phone in your pocket and see what it’s like to make eye contact with someone on the street and smile at them—you will most likely catch them by surprise, and they may even smile back.
- Be present and actively listen. When speaking with your loved ones, turn off all your electronic distractions and focus on them. This will allow you to truly engage in conversation.
- Tune in to yourself. In addition to being present with others, be present with yourself. The physical and emotional clues your body sends are invaluable to your health. Don’t be the “tough one” who ignores the signs coming from your body—it’s the only one you’ve got, it’s talking to you, and it can tell you a lot.