How to Listen to Your Body
Tune in and see what you find.
What should I do? you ask.
Oh, just listen to your body, comes the well-meaning response.
What does that even mean? Listen to your body?
Bodies obviously don’t talk in words. They talk in older, more primal signals.
Bodies talk in sensations.
Primarily, those sensations can be understood as:
- physical sensations, like pain or pleasure, tension or ease, or energy levels;
- emotional sensations, like fear, joy and mood;
- thought sensations, like either scattered or focused and ordered.
Sometimes those signals are loud and clear, like when you stub your toe and your body internally screams with stabbing pain. Loud and clear. Sorry buddy.
Or, if you get the legit stomach flu: jackhammer headache and projectile everything. Painfully obvious body signals.
Other times those signals are a little subtler, hazier, vaguer, or we’re simply not paying as much attention to them.
Below are a few ways you can tune in to what your body may be telling you to do.
Set the stage for paying attention.
You can listen to your body any time, anywhere. It’s with you always (lucky you ;). And, if you’re specifically practicing full-focused attention, it helps to do this when you have minimal other distractions.
The next time you’re somewhere quiet, take a moment.
Focus your attention gently over your body, scanning from body part to body part, head to toe.
Start with 30 seconds. During that 30 seconds you’re scanning, practice holding attention on felt body sensations. The hardest part may be separating those felt body sensations from thoughts.
What are you feeling vs. what are you thinking and telling yourself you’re feeling?
You won’t be able to stop the thoughts. Instead, of trying to turn them off, tune in to felt sensations.
Below are some pointers of what you could tune in to.
- Right now, does anything hurt?
- If so: Where? How?
- What is the pain like? Achey? Stinging? Sharp? Diffuse? Etc.
Attention, calm and focus
- Right now, do you feel calm and relaxed, like you’re in a good comfy spot? Like you can chill out and focus?
- Or do you feel jumpy, restless, fidgety, or irritable? Maybe distracted and scattered? Ants in your pants?
- How’s your breathing right now?
Energy levels and fatigue
- Right now, do you feel full of zest, mojo and vigor, ready to grab the world and sucker-punch any obstacles in your way?
- Do you feel draggy or blah? Or even downright exhausted?
- Are you sleepy or alert? Craving caffeine or happily unwinding?
- How did you sleep last night? How many hours? Was it a good quality sleep?
Mobility and muscle tension
- Are your joints feeling flexible, limber and supple?
- How well can you get around and do the things you want to do?
- Anything creaking, crunching, aching or restricted?
- Anything feeling especially tense or relaxed?
Appetite, hunger and digestion
- Are you hungry or full? How do you know?
- Are you craving anything or do you feel like eating?
- How’s your digestion today? Everything humming along?
Mood, emotions, and overall outlook
- How would you describe your emotional state right now? For example, it could be joyful, happy, enthusiastic … or sad, angry, or shameful.
- What about your mood? Regardless of specific emotions, are you feeling generally positive or negative?
- Or your overall outlook on life?
Gather data. No judging.
Whatever you notice, that’s the truth of the moment. Let it be. No need to change or fix anything.
That’s observing, objectively and scientifically, the experience of being you. You can be sure that knowing this is the one thing you will always know better than anyone else. Listening to your body is learning to be that expert.