Before you start reading, I want you to take a deep breath.
I know you want to read on, but just do it anyway. Take another deep breath. Close your eyes for a moment.
Become aware of your physical body sitting or lying down. Of your feet on the floor or touching each other.
Allow your shoulders to relax, your belly and eyes to soften. Take your hand and put it on your heart. Just notice your presence, your being, right now, right here. Take your time to simply appreciate this moment.
How do you feel right now? Do you feel a little bit more present? A little more at ease? Did you enjoy your experience? Do you feel any different than before?
Often, we’re simply too busy to feel our bodies. As a human race, we have moved far away from the wisdom of our bodies. To top it off, most of us have lived the past 18 months disconnected from our physical body and living in our minds with uncertainty, frustration, conflict, and fear. We’re experiencing a collective trauma brought on by the pandemic, paired with our own personal traumas of the past or present. Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and attitudes, combined with our level of awareness, effect our physical and mental functioning. Do you feel truly connected with your body today?
How do we recognize this disconnect and, more important, guide ourselves back inside our bodies?
Here are some common signs to look for when spotting a disconnect between the mind, body and spirit.
1) Inability to connect with or understand your emotional state (i.e. a lack of feeling).
2) Making plans without considering your mood, how you feel and what’s already on the agenda.
3) Putting too much emphasis on performance while shaming yourself if you don’t accomplish what you set out for.
4) Hyper focus on how you think your body should look vs. your natural figure.
5) A focus on numbers rather than how you feel (ie calorie counting, using your apple watch to track your steps or the effectiveness of your workouts, how many hours you worked today, how many hours you slept, etc.).
6) Following strict diets or self-imposed rules around eating when your body is intuitively communicating something differently.
To put it over-simplistically, you’re running your life with your mind and not your body in these instances. Over time, the lack of dealing with our ‘stuff’ causes a disconnect. But just like taking those two deep breaths made a change in your physiology, there are lots of ways in which we can focus on embodiment.
A great step is to devote some time and energy towards acknowledging a disconnect. One of our favorite resources for self awareness is @the.holistic.psychologist on Instagram. One of her most foundational and valuable tools is “future self” journaling. Dr. Nicole LePera says “Future self journaling works because it creates conscious awareness around your behaviors and patterns.” And when you can change your patterns by tuning in to what your body is telling you, instead of your conditioned thoughts, it can align your life in more ways than one. Follow along below as we break down how Future Self journaling works as well as a specific example to explore embodiment.
Step 1 is self-awareness. We suggest using this format
on her website to find the behavioral patterns that you want to change. Choose ONE to focus on for the next 30 days.
Step 2 is to write affirmations or statements that will help you achieve this.
Step 3 is to write how you will be able to practice these new behaviors in daily life. You expand upon this by acknowledging the person you will become, how that makes you feel, and why you’re grateful for creating this new habit.
It sounds simple, but doing something consistently for 30 days straight is actually very hard! The repetition piece of the practice is so important because the technique uses neuroplasticity. Our brains are plastic, which means through intentional acts we can change the pathways in our brain. However, it takes consistent repetition to change these pathways. This practice should only take 5-8 minutes a day so find what time of day works best for you (it doesn’t have to be in the morning!) and commit!
Using Dr. LePera’s format, here’s an example of using her “Future Self” journaling prompts with the above disconnection example of “following strict diets”.
My daily affirmation:
I am healthy and satisfied when I eat. I honor and listen to my body.
Today I will focus on shifting my pattern of:
Habitually counting and tracking all of my calories and ignoring hunger or fullness cues.
I am grateful for:
The opportunity to become healthier and more connected to my body; plenty of nutritious foods to choose from so I am not deprived when I eat; realizing there are no “good” or “bad” foods.
The person I am becoming will experience more:
Better digestion and less symptoms, satiety, ease with decision making, more time in her day, pleasure.
I have an opportunity to be my future self today when I:
Pause and listen to my body during meals. Choose to honor my cravings while also making space on my plate for nutritious foods to help my body feel and operate at its best.
When I think about who I am becoming I feel:
Confident, knowledgable, connected, proud!
Your thoughts lead to your actions. But new research is showing that your actions, or movement more specifically, can also affect your thoughts. Of course one of the most therapeutic ways to work on reconnecting with your body is through movement. While it is obvious that your feelings can influence your movement, it is not as obvious that your movement can impact your feelings too. For example, when you feel tired and sad, you may move more slowly. When you feel anxious, you may either rush around or become completely paralyzed. But recent studies show that the connection between your brain and your body is a “two-way street” and that means movement can change your brain, too!
Your mind and body are intimately connected. And while your brain is the master control system for your body’s movement, the way you move can also affect the way you think and feel. When you are too exhausted to use thought control strategies such as focusing on the positive, or looking at the situation from another angle, movement can come to the rescue. Here are some movement-based ideas to get you going (literally!).
- Go on a walk or hike with someone else. Not only are you spending time in nature, exposed to natural elements to heighten your senses, you are also connecting on an emotional level. Embodiment is also relational.
- Spend time playing with children or pets. Both are naturally embodied and inspire us to be.
- Slow down. Do less, but do it with more presence and awareness. Again, a great way to become more present is to focus on your body’s senses when performing tasks. This will help to take you out of your subconscious mind and into your body and the present moment.
- Meditative movement. This is a type of movement in which you pay close attention to your bodily sensations, position in space, and gut feelings (such as subtle changes in heart rate or breathing) as you move.
- Group exercise. An interesting study was published by Harvard in 2014. It studied women performing bicep curls with someone else. As part of the experiment, participants had to either coordinate their movement or deliberately not coordinate their movement with the other person’s arm curls. They filled out a mood report before and after each phase of synchronizing or falling out of synchrony. When subjects intentionally synchronized their movement with the other, they had higher self-esteem than when they did not. In fact, movement synchrony can make it easier to remember what people say and to recall what they look like. This was the first study to show that it makes you feel better about yourself, too.
The body is more than just a means to move from one end to the next. It’s vital for more than our physical health. The body is intimately involved in every aspect of our lives. Connection to our bodies brings about connection to joy, to purpose, to others and even to the planet. Stop giving your energy away to things you cannot control and give it back to yourself where it can empower you, support you, and ground you. We would love to help you explore movement therapy through group exercise at one of our 20 studios (and counting!. Contact your local studio today for your intro offer and to get started on your movement journey with us 🙂