I don’t know about you, but I have noticed that most of the time I am living up in my head. In other words focusing on doing, planning, ruminating and sometimes not being really present when my kids or partner are talking with me.
It is actually not a nice feeling. Pretty numb. Feels like you are on auto-pilot and nothing really feels like you are getting or giving any value. Like am not being my best or really being me. By which I mean a conversation is not as connected as it can be, a meal is just made and eaten without really savouring it, work is just a list of jobs to be ticked off. None of it is done with me really being there, not doing or being my best, I am not really fully present. My mind, body, spirit connection is off – I am not really comfortable or at peace with myself.
I have noticed how this can make me feel empty.
I have noticed how I can then look for other ways to make myself feel the ways I want to feel.
How I really want to feel connected, wanted, needed, with a purpose.
So I might then turn to other ways to look for some form of comfort or whatever – scrolling through social media to look for validation or connection, numbing out whilst watching tv or mindlessly eating (or drinking alcohol when I used to drink). None of which activities are bad or wrong in themselves, just when the motivation is out of whack with me.
Over the last several years I have been much more aware of my monkey mind, always jumping over the place, often being at the helm of this ship. I have worked (when I remember!) tried to connect more with my body than my mind, the ‘real’ me. But it is not easy. The default, certainly for me, is the mind or my ego to be ‘in charge’. The one that wants to be seen, heard, recognised. The part that most of our worth, our society can often seem to be built upon. So it can feel like you are swimming against the tide if you do try to be more connected to yourself, to be present, to tune in, even to just be.
I am by no means fully proficient in this. But it is something I regularly remind myself of and something that I have really been trying to re-focus on again this month as we embark on a new fresh year. More recently I have noticed how much I used food, particularly over Christmas, partly to ‘reward’ myself for not drinking or having access to food we don’t usually have in Spain. As a result I have felt pretty uncomfortable in my body, feeling over-full at times, which then can lead to a torrent of shame or guilt. I have recently re-embarked on my journey of Intuitive Eating which, no doubt, I will be blogging more about. The key to this is to be really in touch with our bodies, listening to what they want and need, rather than letting the mind dictate all the time.
So, here are some my 11 tips on how I have found beneficial to reconnecting with my body over the years. I would love to hear about yours too (please use comments below!)
1. Stretching – I start my day with some stretches to move the parts that might feel stiff or in need of some attention and try to do more of what feels good at various points in the day e.g. whilst I boil the kettle.
2. Mindful/conscious/intuitive eating – Before I eat something or have a meal, I am trying to check in with whether I am really hungry for food (sometimes I am just tired, bored or only need a snack) and what I really fancy. This is taking some time to really tune into as I have not really allowed myself to do this in the past (especially since having kids!) Sometimes we eat out of habit e.g. it is 1 o’clock therefore we must have lunch or eating the same breakfast (like I have for years), but actually asking ourselves if that is what we really want. I have more recently switched my brekkie for porridge a few times as I feel that is more what I need right now in the colder months in Spain and it feels better.
3. Journalling – I try to journal every morning just for 5-10 minutes before the kids get up, just to check in how I feel and to use it as a reminder to see how I feel in my body and respond to it if needed.
4. Mediation – yes, you knew it was coming. I have to say I have an intermittent relationship with meditation over many years now. On the whole it has really helped me connect with myself and give me space between thoughts and actions. I was a fairly reluctant meditator (all seemed a bit too out there for me) and at times it feels like yet another thing ‘to do’. But I have found the following also to be true:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”Viktor Frankl, Psychologist, Holocaust survivor and author of ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’
Meditation has helped me not always (although still do on occasion) react to my kids in a way I might regret, immediately respond to something that is hurtful or pause before I act to an invitation or request. I have tried all sorts of meditation tools from Headspace, to transcendental meditation and found it a great foundation for me. However, I currently am leaning more towards a 5-10 minute practice each morning of just sitting quietly tuning into where I am. I firmly believe, there is no right or wrong way for someone to meditate and this may change over time.
5. Wild Soul movement. I discovered the work of Elizabeth Dialto several years ago and firstly found her work a little confronting as she works a lot with mind body connection and sensual movement. Don’t let that put you off! She has really helped show me the way to do movement that feels good to my body and listen to its’ cues. Rather than punishing it with exercises that I don’t really want to do, but feel like I ‘should’ ( a true-tell tell sign that we are not listening to ourselves!). Finding any way of moving our body that feels good, helps us connect and trust ourselves and our bodies more.
6. Spending time outside in nature. A mindful walk (ie. without headphones or other distractions), for example, really helps me connect to the world around me. Sometimes I walk without the dog so I can just focus on the world around me and nothing else.
7. Dancing – there is nothing like putting on some great dance tunes and dancing in the kitchen to really feel alive and connect to my body. Zumba classes also do it for me. There is something about music creating a visceral connection that helps me connect within.
8. Yoga, Qi Gong or pilates – if I allow myself to really be in the moment with one of these movement practices I find it quietens the mind and helps me connect and listen more to my body. But I have to really be present, not be in a rush to get it over and done with or thinking about what I have to do next in my day. This requires some planning, awareness and intention-setting when you start to commit to doing this otherwise it is essentially a waste of time. Doing yoga just to cross it off your list is not what yoga is about.
9. Painting, pottery, craft, knitting, playing an instrument, gardening– depending on what you enjoy can really be quite meditative and lead to being more connected to ourselves and our own self-expression. Getting over myself and allowing myself to do these things (regardless of how good I am at them!) really fills my cup whether I do them on a weekly or monthly basis. I have surprised myself of late, joining a choir and spending more time pottering in the garden, both of which are things I am not great at, but feel like they make me happier, more connected to myself and the world around me.
10. Podcasts – some podcasts really help me slow down and connect to myself and what truly matters. My personal favourite is Tara Brach and this week I have really loved this talk on ‘Realising our Deepest Desires’. Really juicy and gets to the heart of life. I know the title will put a lot of people off (it certainly would have done for me a few years ago), but it is not as woo woo as it sounds – promise!
11. Micro-checking in with myself through the day – I need to remind myself to do this more often. I would like to make it a little ritual that I do almost automatically, like when I take a first sip of tea or after I go to the loo to spend a few moments to see how I am doing and what I might need. It might be a stretch, to write a few sentences, close my eyes for 10 seconds or have a quick chat with someone. Giving myself micro-spaces in the day, away from the treadmill of work, ‘to do’s’, the family routines or mundane tasks at home.
Now I don’t obviously do all these things every day or even every week, but when I give myself permission to do even a couple of the above each day (usually before everyone else is up), I have no doubt in saying that I am more content and show-up as a better person, parent, friend, wife, mum. As time evolves and I tune more in with my body, I hope to allow myself to trust it more, really allow it to be heard, far more than my egoic mind, Allowing my intuition to really guide me rather than what I think I ‘should’ be doing. This will undoubtedly take a lot of time, patience and self-compassion. But I think it is the right path for me to take to create a fully connected and intentional life that I would like for myself and my family. A life that is far fuller and richer than the relentless hamster wheel of my mind.
What do you think about mind-body connection, do you lead from your body or with your mind? What do you do to tune into your body? What is one thing can you do right now to strengthen this connection? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas below!