Last time I wrote about ways to notice the body signals that tell us that we need to take more care of ourselves physically. Once we get better at listening to the simple basic needs of our bodies, we can move to the next level of awareness of our body’s intelligence.
The body has a direct physical reaction to every thought action or behaviour we have. Each of these is ‘assessed’ by the body as either maintaining/enhancing our ‘ecology’ – the optimal balance of the system – or throwing it off balance. By the way, if you were in consistent static balance, you’d be bored to tears! The balance I am describing is not static, it is dynamic.
There are times when I need to be off-balance for a while, in order to move to the next level of balance as a system. For example, if I am learning a new skill, I may feel uncomfortable until I have integrated it into the way I do things. So the assessments by the body are constantly taking into account the specific circumstances, rather than having a single ‘right answer’ – part of what demonstrates its intelligence!
If we can use this element of the body’s intelligence, we can make our lives so much easier! I know that, for me, I used to persist in situations and cycles of thought which made me feel anxious or irritable, because I thought I had to. I would be with someone whose conversation offended my values, I would continue to worry at the miserable thoughts I was having, like a dog with a bone, I would agree to do things that I thought I should do, even though I didn’t want to – and I still do all these things sometimes!!
However I was lucky enough to be taught a way to help myself to tell the difference between something that made me feel a little uncomfortable because it was unfamiliar, and something which my body’s intelligence assessed as uncomfortable because it detracted from my balance, my ecology.
Notice I only use the words comfortable or uncomfortable: they are good generic words which don’t label the reaction specifically and pin it down.
So what is the ‘trick’ to this distinction? Your body has two clear signals it gives to you: one tells you that whatever it is is wrong for you, and the other tells you that whatever it is is right for you.
‘Wrong’ signals may be things like: your breath becoming shallower; your foot fidgeting; your shoulders hunching a little; your arm feeling itchy; that sinking feeling in your stomach.
‘Right’ signals may be things like: your breathing becoming deeper; your chest feeling expanded; your shoulders relaxing; your jaw loosening; finding you are humming a little tune to yourself.
To discover your signals, just remember a time when, you realise with hindsight, it was just right for you. When you think of how your body was reacting, what’s the first things you are aware of? And now do the same with a time when you know it was wrong for you.
Once we are aware of our signals, we can use them to help us. Let’s start with the ‘right’ signal. Just begin to notice the thoughts and situations that switch it on. And then consciously consider ways you could bring more of those kinds of thoughts and situations into your life. By the way, don’t make this hard! If your answers are like: ‘when I am with my friend whom I only see about every 3 months’ or ‘when I’m on holiday’, then it can seem impossible to have more. So what is it about these situations that feels right? Maybe such things as being with people whom I can just be myself with, or allowing myself to do just what I feel like, which are both situations you could expand into other, more everyday parts of your life.
Now what about the ‘wrong’ signal? Again begin to notice the thoughts and situations that switch it on. Now ask yourself: ‘How can I reduce the number of these thoughts and situations I have to deal with?’ I am a great believer in beginning by applying the Snoopy axiom: if you don’t like it, avoid it whenever possible!! Where it isn’t possible to avoid, then ask yourself: ‘What could I do differently in the future to make this more comfortable?’ Our innate wisdom usually gives us some useful things to experiment with, such as limit the time spent on it, or distract yourself by doing something else, or take a step back from the situation and let them get on with it.
Most of us put up with a lot of discomfort we aren’t obliged to, because we don’t see any alternative. In fact, a lot of the time we don’t even see it as discomfort, we just think it’s normal! Yet we have a means of helping ourselves to increase the time we spend feeling good, and reduce the time we spend feeling bad – our bodies encompass great aids for our well being, in every sense. They are a live, dynamic and intelligent system, designed to help us to be at our best. So let’s use that help to make our lives easier!
Questions to ask yourself
- Remember a time when, you realise with hindsight, it was just right for you. When you think of how your body was reacting, what are the first things you are aware of?
- What sort of thoughts/situations switch these signals on for you? And how could you bring more of them into your life?
- Remember a time when, you realise with hindsight, it was not right for you. When you think of how your body was reacting, what are the first things you are aware of?
- How can you reduce the number of these thoughts and situations you have to deal with? And if you can’t avoid those situations, what could you do differently in the future to make them more comfortable for you and reduce their negative impact?