The Importance of Listening to Your Body (and why it's so hard to do)

I often ask my clients, "where do you feel that in your body?" 

It's a simple question, but can be difficult to answer. And so I also often ask it of myself, "what am I feeling in my body? Where do I feel it?" Emotions, deep-seated beliefs, fear, passion...they dwell in your body.

Our bodies are one of our best sources of information. It may be a sensation of tightness in the chest, butterflies in the stomach, tension in your neck, a dull ache in your back, fire in your belly. These sensations are there for a reason, and are so very important to tune in to. 

Unfortunately, and for a variety of reasons, many of us feel a bit cut off from our bodies and what they're telling us. Whether it's a general feeling of unease in your whole body that is difficult to tune in to, a feeling of "floating above" your body, or a sense of having shut of the body's feelings because they're too painful, many of us live without a consistent sense of how our bodies feel, or what they're trying to communicate. Unsure of when we are hungry or full, or what we want to eat or what we want to do or how we want to connect with others.

While we were born innately in tune with our bodies' signals and needs, this disconnection is the result of a variety of reasons outside our control. Maybe your parents dictated how much to eat when you were a kid, forcing you to clean your plate past the point of fullness, or depriving you of certain foods they judged to be unhealthy. Perhaps you spent so much of your teen and adult years trying to lose weight, trying this diet then that diet - following a set of prescribed rules and restrictions for when to eat, when not to eat, how much to eat, and what to eat and not eat. Whether your body was hungry or full didn't matter, what your body wanted to eat didn't matter - what mattered was mastering your body, exerting willpower over your body. The important thing was to tune out your body's signals and turn toward outside instruction on how to eat and move and live.

When in fact, our bodies know exactly what they need to be nourished, fulfilled, happy, and whole. Our bodies know what they need to be satisfied and healthy. But when you have spent so many years turning down your body's message in favor of the diet book, the health blogger, the neighbor selling products, the magazine promising you'll be loved if only you can be thin, you can't hear your own body's message anymore. 

There are other ways this disconnection from your body begins and perpetuates. Trauma, in all its forms, leaves a profound mark on the body and it can often be vital and adaptive to tune out the body - it's too painful to tune in. Maybe you live with depression or anxiety and the feelings in your body seem unbearable at times, and you have learned to shut parts of yourself down in order to survive.

I am so grateful to tell you that there is another way. It is possible to tune back in to the body. It is possible to find body-based healing from trauma. It is possible to re-establish the connection with your body that is your birthright, to radically accept yourself and begin to learn what it means to listen to your body for its requests on how it wants to be nourished with food, how it wants to move or rest, how it wants to connect spiritually. 

It's difficult work, but it is some of the most important work you can do in your lifetime. Forget the self-help books, the diet books, the advice column. Your body knows how to speak to you, knows what it needs, if only you can take the healing journey to re-learn how to tune in.  

Kristi Hall