Intuitive Wellness: Listening to Your Body for Optimal Health

Your body is providing constant feedback.

But, are you listening?

On any given day, our bodies send hundreds of thousands of messages to various cells, organs, systems, and metabolic processes in order to keep things functioning in tip-top shape and in a state of homeostasis (a happy medium) – or as close to it as possible.

Your ability to listen to your body signals is the number one determining factor in how healthfully and vibrantly you will live your life.

Think about your sleep patterns. How do you know when it’s time to go to bed? Your body tells you. Your breathing becomes deeper and more subdued. You yawn. You think about hitting the sack. You’re tired. Try as you might to not listen, sleep is one of those things in your body’s wiring that is inevitable. Eventually, you will become so tired you have to sleep.

Other body signals aren’t quite as obvious.

Eating, for instance, has become a chaotic experience for the majority of Americans. Because of the lightning-fast pace of our society day-in and day-out, it’s incredibly easy to lose touch with our body signals when it comes to food. We eat for convenience, on the go, on the couch, in the drive-thru and often in between pressing tasks that steal our attention for the duration of our meals.

Even movement and exercise seem to have been hijacked by an avalanche of conflicting “expert” opinions and media standards. We no longer feel what our bodies need… we must be told how to move in order to stay healthy. For most people, “healthy movement” consists of 30-60 minutes of isolated exercise in the midst of an otherwise sedentary day. The more we sit still, the less our bodies want to move, and the weaker they become.

But still, they whisper silently to us — sending us signals that would transform our lives, if only we would listen. These signals can feel like fatigue, frustration, lack of motivation, depression, or any other symptom that indicates we are out of balance.

The devastating truth is that when we lose touch with what our body is telling us, we miss out on a key component to health that affects every area of our lives — our intuition.

What Is Intuition?

Intuition is the experience of knowing something from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning. It’s essentially body wisdom. It bridges the gap between the conscious and unconscious parts of our mind, and also between our instinct and our reason.

Your intuition will tell you intimate and important things nobody else can — and it will also tell you things your own mind will disagree with. As a culture, we believe that rationality is the only mechanism worthy of decision-making. But what about our “inner voice” — that unique (and sometimes conflicting) internal sensation that tells us how we truly feel beneath all those layers of logic?

Intuition’s most important role is that it alerts us to the path, people, and circumstances that we will uniquely find fulfilling. It’s the beacon that magnetizes us toward what’s best for us.

No one can teach, give or sell it to you. It is uniquely yours for the crafting. And what an incredible blessing it is.

Albert Einstein once said intuition is our most valuable asset, and one of our most unused senses. He described it as “a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance of something.”

Intuition is a vital tool for every fragment of our lives, but it plays an especially important role in our health, because it’s very essence is rooted in our biology. Intuition lives within our body. So learning our body’s language becomes our most essential task, not only for our physical health, but also for the harmony and fulfillment of our entire lives.

How Can We Hear Our Body Wisdom More Clearly?

There are many ways we can learn to listen to our physical bodies. Here are 9 of my favorites.

1. Eat When You’re Hungry

While regular eating rhythms are certainly important, consistently eating when you aren’t hungry sends unhealthy signals to your body and brain. Try not to eat at 6am, noon and 6pm just because “it’s meal time.” Instead, adopt a more flexible, organic approach to mealtimes (think European eating habits!). Eating when you’re truly hungry equates to less stress, a better relationship with your body, and less random restrictions on when you can and can’t eat.

2. Eat Slowly and Mindfully

Eating should be a ceremony. We are honoring both the food we’ve been blessed with, and the bodies that are receiving it. We are being mindful of the dance between our senses, and allowing our body the time and space to respond to the experience as it unfolds.

So prepare and bless your food with your hands. Plate it beautifully and take care in its presentation. Be fully present with it and savor every bite. In doing this, you make room for your stomach to process, and your body to receive healthy and accurate signals that you’re satisfied.

3. Stop Eating When You’re Satisfied

There is a balancing point between hungry and stuffed, and it’s called satisfied. Most of us miss it, because of the time it takes our brains to get the message that our stomachs are full, and because within that small window we will usually be found shoveling food mindlessly into our mouths, unaware that we have already passed the finish line.

This isn’t about restriction – it’s about finding the natural balance point of satisfaction in our eating habits. Developing this skill alone can radically transform your relationship with your body.

4. Pay attention to how you feel after you eat

This one is crucial in developing self-awareness of your body’s unique needs. The next time you eat, really pay attention to how you feel afterward. Do you feel energized? Lethargic? Bloated? Gassy? Pay attention to how certain foods and food groups make you feel. If a given food makes you feel terrible, eat it less often. If a food makes you feel energized and nurtured, eat it more frequently.

You don’t need a scientist to tell you what to eat… your body tells you every time you put something into it.

5. Don’t eat your feelings

If you find yourself reaching for food for reasons other than hunger (the most common being stress, boredom or sadness) check in with yourself. It’s a difficult task, no doubt. But developing your capacity to recognize and be still with your emotions (instead of suppressing or running away from them with myriad chemicals) is a giant leap in the direction of self-mastery.

6. Move your body how it wants to be moved

We have enough chores in our daily lives; exercise shouldn’t be one of them. So check in with yourself and see what you actually feel like doing. Incredible motivation (not to mention right action) can be stirred up by simply asking yourself how you’d actually like to move.

Are you craving the fresh air and rhythmic pacing of a run? A more fluid, free-spirited release through dance? The serenity of yoga, where you find enormous strength in stillness? Or maybe you want to take some aggression out on the punching bag?

Follow your feelings. Take your body out for a spin and you’ll find that it naturally leads you to radiant transformation every time.

7. Moderate, and avoid either side of extremes

It can be really helpful to remember that we don’t have to be body-puritans to be vibrantly, ecstatically healthy. Nature doesn’t work in excess in either direction; it continually seeks the balancing point between all things.

When it comes to wellness, the sum is greater than its parts. There’s more to it than simply what we eat and how we move. Health is embodied in the bigger picture of our lives… how we feel, what we choose to think about, how we connect to the world around us, how often we allow reflection, stillness and silence, what emotions drive our decisions…

All of our choices contribute to our health (or illness). Therefore, moderation is key. If you love chocolate, eat it! If you love pasta, enjoy it! But let it nourish you. Don’t kill the joy with excessiveness.

8. Sleep when you’re tired

I love this one and the incredible baggage it holds for people (myself included). We’ve become so conditioned for action and productivity in this culture, we actually feel guilty for resting. Think about the absurdity of that for a moment!

With the endless tasks, noise and distraction in our lives, it’s no wonder our bodies are tired. Yet we often insist on justifying the exact opposite… telling ourselves that we got plenty of sleep last night and have no reason to be tired.

The truth is, there are many reasons to be tired, even when we’re getting regular nighttime sleep. Our minds might be exhausted from the report we’ve been working on for the past week. We may be emotionally drained from an argument we had with our spouse last night. We might be fighting off an unknown virus or bacteria. A simple trip to the grocery store — with all of its energy-draining lights, advertisements, and interactions — can leave you feeling like you need to unplug and rest for a moment.

In all of these cases, rest (and sleep in particular) is crucial to our recovery. We’ve taken something too far in one direction, and it’s time to allow the pendulum to swing back toward its balancing point.

So pay attention to your fatigue. Honor it by allowing yourself the extra rest you need. Only then will it naturally dissipate, and you’ll find the energy you’ve been looking for.

9. Slow down when you’re overwhelmed

You’re in a frenzy. Between work, your personal and family needs, the holidays and everything else you have going on, you haven’t had a moment of peace for over a week. You’re exhausted, tense and feeling totally overwhelmed, yet you have so much to do you can’t imagine letting it all go now.

It’s time to put down the crack pipe! Now, more than ever, you need to stop and recalibrate. You cannot continue pushing through chronic levels of stress without taking a toll on your body, plain and simple. It’s up to you to decide what’s most important in this moment… getting every single task checked off your list, or letting some things go to make space for your own wellbeing.

You are the only one who can decide… and now is the time to make the choice. I encourage you to choose peace, wellness and vitality by following your body’s innate and miraculous wisdom. It will never lead you astray.

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