The genius of our bodies is our best kept secret even to us!!

The body holds much of the information we need to function at our best, but too often we ignore its messages and plow ahead with what our minds tell us. Perhaps because we’re not taught from early on to pay attention to internal messages as well as external demands, we frequently ignore our body’s communications.

We take another extra-strength aspirin rather than investigating what’s causing our head to ache. (May I suggest drinking more water to help cure some headaches.) We use more caffeine or sugar to give us a lift when we feel tired, rather than hearing our body’s message about needing rest or recognizing our fatigue as an early symptom of burnout. This is a message we all need to heed. A look at our beloved pets may be all the message we need to see the value of naps.

We fail to hear the thousand little messages communicated to us by how we’re holding ourselves. For example, do you ever find yourself holding the mouth pinched and tight rather than relaxed? The fact that our shoulders are up around our ears and the knot of tension is in our stomach, sends us messages of over-extended lives.

These days we’re notorious for putting deadlines ahead of the protests of aching bones or inadequately nourished bellies. Instead of asking our body what it wants, we go for the quick fill-up or the comfort food risking health with poor diets and added stress of a fast-paced life.

So what to do to give your body an equal say in how you use it?

Start with the breath. Breathing consciously is a major part of body awareness. Turn off thoughts and just let yourself experience the inflow and outflow of breath. Label them, “In. Out. In. Out.” This is a practice you can do sitting at a light, waiting in traffic, waiting in the drive through window.

Allow yourself quiet time. Sit for ten minutes just observing yourself, even (especially!) in the middle of a busy day. Meditate. Take a walk or a nap. Allow time to do nothing. Soak in a hot tub rather than taking a quick shower. Changing the importance of having quiet time is the first place to start accepting its therapeutic benefits.

Get a massage. It’s not self-indulgence to be massaged; it wakes up the whole nervous system and helps to detox the body.

Use your journal to dialogue with your body. Ask your body how it’s feeling, what it wants, what’s going on. Give that sore wrist or stiff lower back a voice and let it tell you what its message is.

Eat when hungry, sleep when tired. Take a week and really pay attention to your body’s most basic needs. Does your routine for eating and sleeping conform to the habits you’ve established? If they don’t, change them! Notice how much more you eat while sitting in front of the TV.

Do a body inventory to relax. Start with your toes and work upwards. Scan your body from the inside. Or try tensing each part slightly, then relaxing it to release residual tension. This is a great way to relax for sleep. Try it!!

Practice mindfulness. Get used to tuning in to your physical self, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.

And if your body suggests rolling down a grassy hillside, taking flight on a playground swing, or skipping down a winding path, why resist? Its impulses hold the key to our well-being!