For those of us who are pretty in tune with our health and bodies, we tend to know what works for us and what doesn’t, right? For me, for instance, exercise has an extraordinarily powerful impact, not only on my body but also on my mood. When I start my day with exercise, I fuel myself with nutritious foods and treat my body with respect. On days I don’t, I am more likely to feel lethargic and take less care in the way I treat my body and speak to myself.
In fact, I was reminded of how powerful this can be for me the other day. I hadn’t slept well the night before due to a few things making me feel anxious – an emotion I don't feel all that often and tends to make me super uncomfortable. You know it, that knot-in-your-stomach feeling. So, I headed to my spin class later that morning and when I left feeling totally rejuvenated, I was taken aback. Sure, the sweat and endorphins always make me feel good. But I was substantially calmer, feeling more at ease even though none of the issues making me anxious had changed at all. It struck me how incredible our bodies are at self-healing.
So, of course, if you find a healthy behavior or tool that has a positive impact on you, do it as often as you can! But today I want to take a look at WHY we can know intellectually that something will impact us in a positive way, but still choose not to do it. Or, similarly, maybe we know something has a tendency to set us down a negative path but we still do it time and time again. Infuriating, right?! I think we tend to write these things off as “bad habits”. For years I felt these behaviors in my own life were habits I was just stuck with. But, in fact, our bodies have an exceptional ability to clue us into things that our minds may not be aware of.
At our core, this behavior is probably serving some function for us. It may not lead to what we consider a “desirable” outcome, but it's serving us in some way. If we try to lean into that action when we are doing it and tune into how it might be serving us in that moment, perhaps it can make us aware of something we otherwise would overlook.
For example, my experience has taught me that starting a weekend morning on the couch in front of the TV tends to lead to a day of lethargy and just feeling lousy. But sometimes I do it anyways. Instead of beating myself up for it, I can use it to clue me into something. Perhaps it is my body’s means of alerting me to the fact that there is an emotion I am feeling that I would rather distract myself from (with TV or Facebook) than actually experience? Or maybe I just need some alone time to block out the lists and "shoulds" and noise. This recognition means that I can look for more positive ways to meet those needs.
Maybe you know that a lot of sugar makes you feel awful – headachy, tired, moody – but lately you can't get the sweets down fast enough. Before you just assume it's because you have zero willpower, maybe consider something else your body could be trying to tell you: Are you feeling the need for some serious self-care but you can't seem to make the time? Or maybe you’re feeling the need to “act out”, to “be bad” but you don't feel there is any space in your life to do that outside of food. These are powerful signs our bodies are telling us! What an incredible gift!
So, in this season of giving and receiving gifts, take advantage of this gift from your body. Next time you find yourself engaging in a behavior that you know doesn't serve you well, ditch the guilt and take a few minutes to reflect on what your body may be telling you that you need. Tell us what those clues are for you in the comments below or on Facebook and Instagram!