January is notorious for people setting goals based on changing their bodies. Don’t get me wrong, I love when people are motivated and inspired but often when it comes to our bodies, this laser focus can be more like tunnel vision. People set lofty goals with their mind but expect their bodies to just follow suit.
Unpopular opinion here: going hard and all out isn’t always the solution. This may seem counter intuitive (especially from someone who worked as a trainer in the fitness industry for years). We set these mental goals and expect to come charging out of the gate at full speed, listening to our willpower and desire, but not necessarily our bodies. Pain does not equal gain. Is it any wonder that people fall off their big New Years resolutions?
So what if we tried something new this year? Rather than becoming obsessed with a diet or workout plan, what if we changed our focus from forcing things onto our body, and instead, started to actually listen to our bodies for a change? What If we allowed our bodies to help guide our mind in the way we move, eat and feel?
The body is an incredibly enlightening tool. Not only can it let us know if we have been eating and moving in a way that fuels us, but it can give us insight into our moods and emotions. The mind and body work interchangeably and can deeply impact each other, but only if we begin to foster a deeper connection with our bodies.
But how do we do build a deeper connection with our bodies when we’ve been conditioned to listen more to our thoughts than our physical selves?
Here are 4 places to start:
1. Be still – get seated comfortably and close your eyes or soften your gaze. Pay attention to your breath. Don’t change it in any way, just notice how your breath moves through you body. Notice points of tension in your body. Can you feel your heart beating? Do you have urges to fidget or move? Where do you feel energy moving and where do you feel fatigue? If you are feeling anxious, where does that sit in your body and how does that change as you focus on it and be still? Often we don’t stop ourselves from ‘doing’ long enough to notice the messages our body is giving us and where it needs attention.
2. 4, 4, 4. If you are someone who struggles to be still and needs to ‘do’ something to keep focus try this. Look around you and notice four things you see. Next notice four things you hear and then notice four things you can feel or touch (like the ground beneath you, the air blowing across your face or the clothing on your skin). This exercise can get you out of your head and into the senses of your body. This is an especially useful exercise when our brains feel overwhelmed and need a way to timeout.
3. Listen to your ‘gut’. We have remarkable instinctive mechanisms in our bodies. If we are about to do something that we are uncertain of, even if our minds try to convince us otherwise, our bodies often give us hints for what direction to take, you just have to be aware enough to hear them. Listen to that tightness in your chest or that uneasy stomach. It may be telling you to change course or change your approach.
4. Sleep, rest or slow down. We are living in a very ‘hustle-based; culture. We often try to push through things to check items off a to-do list and generally do more and go faster. This means sometimes going against our bodies and pushing them too far, leading to injury, exhaustion or derailing our motivation entirely. Learn to recognize your signs that your body needs a break or rest. Maybe that means doing a light workout instead of a sprint. Maybe it means taking a midday nap instead of answering emails at lunch. Or maybe it means going to bed instead of watching that extra Netflix show. The benefits of resting when our body is asking for it are exponential (and far outweigh anything we push through to do).
Becoming more attuned to the signals our body tries to tell us can inform the way we work, interact and perform, and sometimes taking a step back in the present is what will allow us to have more quality performance and better health and well being in the future.
As a mother of three kids 5 and under (including twins) who works full time, I am all too familiar with the concept of losing a sense of self and feeling like you are living on autopilot. Between life transitions, the pressures of day-to-day life and the more recent stress of the pandemic, we have less and less energy to focus on ourselves and it’s no wonder it can feel as though we are getting lost.
I would love to hear from you. Let’s connect on Instagram @rachelk_psychotherapy
Personally, I have experienced the process of ‘creating’ myself more than once as my life has changed and I’ve had to adapt to new circumstances. It takes intentional effort to pause the cycle and really ask, who do I want to be and what do I want my life to look like?
I have worked in the helping field for almost 20 years with a large variety of clients, some with a high achieving career-oriented focus, others experiencing life transitions like divorce or having a child and others who are tired of repeating the same cycles in their relationships, wanting to find a new way to interact. While on the surface these people may appear very different, they all hold one thing in common: the desire to understand themselves better and to create a life in line with their core values. These are things we can work on collaboratively through psychotherapy.
In my practice, I use an integrative approach to psychotherapy rooted in a deep non-judgmental connection with my clients. In sessions we will:
Reflect: helping you to understand how you see the world and yourself, discovering unhelpful patterns
Replenish: uncovering ways to find fulfillment and nourish the parts of you that need extra focus.
And Restore: re-establish balance in your life, your sense of self and guide you into a life that is true to your core values.
I look forward to working with and getting to know you.