If any of you know me, read my book or heard me on my radio show, you know how often I talk about “noticing your body.” I mean I say it and talk about it at nauseam! Really, I do! Why? Glad you asked, let me tell you!
The body holds all of our secrets, things we are not even aware of. I’m serious, it does. Do you think you’re completely over the break up from your very first boyfriend or girlfriend? Well, let’s find out. Think about him or her, imagine the times you spent with them, the intimate moments, the fun, etc. Now, notice how your body is reacting to these memories. If you are feeling a little pang of melancholy, sadness or even anger if he or she was a jerk, then you pretty much are over it.
However, if you notice your heart beating faster, tightness in your stomach, or your eyes welling up with tears, then maybe you’re not as “over it” as you think you are. This may simply mean that you haven’t fully worked through how it affected you and you may need to spend a little more time being curious about that. Now, please think of something that makes you feel good, your pet, your children, your new love, a pretty flower—anything—and now notice your body. Do you feel a little better than you did a moment ago?
Our bodies will react before we are even aware of how we feel about something. And because we have the ability of thought, many times we rationalize away things that actually may still cause us to become emotional because feeling sad, disappointed or angry doesn’t feel good and we mistakenly try to avoid it at all costs. Many people believe that if we let ourselves feel angry, for example, we will be an angry person walking around the world and actually, the exact opposite is true. Scientists have a saying: Name it to tame it! This means that when we identify an emotion within us, “that’s sadness, that’s anger” the strength of the emotion actually dissipates. That is how our nervous systems work, not psych mumbo jumbo. However, if you have had a lot of trauma in your past and have never dealt with the effects of it, then I suggest that you see a therapist that can help you navigate through your emotions so they don’t overwhelm you.
So, getting in touch with your body, noticing the slightest change, can clue you into how your mind is interpreting what is happening to you in this exact moment. And many times we are not aware of how we are interpreting things. Has this ever happened to you? You’re on the phone with your partner, family member or friend and all of a sudden you find yourself in an argument and the conversation, that started seemingly benign, turns into a yelling match. Having a direct connection with your body, you would have noticed that at some point, your heart started to beat fast, your chest got tight or your stomach felt in knots and those bodily sensations would have clued you in to the fact that you were reacting to something that was just said.
The simple act of noticing your body sensations allows you to take a step back as see what is happening. Maybe the tone of their voice triggered you, maybe your partner said they were going to be late and that triggered your abandonment fears. Who knows what triggers us and, although important, in this moment what is more important is that you are able to hold off from reacting and choose an appropriate response.
See, when we get anxious or angry, the thinking part of our brain goes “off line” and disconnects from the emotional part of our brain. Again, this is brain science, not psych mumbo jumbo. And we are all too familiar with what happens when we come from a purely emotional place. Well, we may not know exactly what happens but most of us, if not all of us, have at one point or another said the words, “I didn’t mean what I said” or some version of that! That’s what happens when the thinking part of our brain goes off line, we react and say whatever comes to mind, actually it surpasses the mind and just flows out of our mouths with no filter because the part of the brain that filters has been temporarily disconnected.
Noticing our bodies gives us that split second of time, and when it comes to automatic reactions, a spit second is enough time to take a step back and talk ourselves through how we actually want to handle this moment in time instead of reacting, more often in an inappropriate way that causes us to apologize for it later. This is not to say that it is an easy thing to do when we are emotional, however, this mind body-connection will make it easier to let rational thought win over irrational emotional reactions and us to respond in the way we want to.
How can you get in touch with your body? Glad you asked! Just remind yourself to notice a different body part throughout the day. So, for example, notice your feet right now. I bet before I suggested you notice your feet, you weren’t even aware of them, right? By doing this many times throughout the day, you will strengthen the connection between your mind and body. When I began this practice, I did it old school style and put post-it notes all over with a body part on them: foot, hand, butt, leg, arm, back, etc. and that would remind me to notice that body part, just for a moment. For those of you that work in front of a computer you can put a note on the side of the screen to remind you. Others program a gentle tone to ring on their phone every so often as a reminder. Whatever works for you! Soon enough you will be tuning into your body without any reminders and soon after that you will notice any change in your body, allowing you to curiously wonder what just happened to cause the change and allowing you the time to choose what YOU want to do about it.
So if you never, or almost never, want to have to say “I didn’t mean that”, then make it a habit to notice your body throughout the day and strengthen your mind-body connection!