For the most part, we live in a society that rewards thinking, logic and analysis…living exclusively in our heads. The upside is productivity and progress, but at the risk of over analysis, anxiety, burnout, exhaustion, and worst of all, living a life full of things we were “supposed” to do, but that leaves us entirely unfulfilled.
The problem isn’t in the thinking; it’s in forgetting the balance of thinking and feeling. In fact, most of us have gotten so accustomed to being in our heads that we struggle to even know how to be in our bodies. We’ve lost our connection to our inner knowing, our intuition, our gut, our compass…the only path to a fulfilling life.
Getting in touch with that inner voice guides big decisions about our careers, the people we choose to surround ourselves with and where we live, as well as thousands of every-day decisions. Most people notice that inner voice every now and then, whether we’re trying to or not; you might find yourself saying or thinking things like, “That person gave me a bad feeling,” “Something told me to call you” or “It just felt right.” The goal of living more in our bodies is to connect with that instinct all of the time for the direction and answers we seek.
The idea of finding answers within ourselves can be both liberating and terrifying. I read recently that although anxiety expresses itself differently ways, its root cause is a lack of trust in ourselves; if we had full trust and confidence in our ability to make the right decisions, find and give love, be good parents and employees, handle difficult situations, provide for ourselves and our families and all of the other ways we worry, we would live a more settled, peaceful and content life.
Looking back over the years, the split-second decisions I made based on a feeling that I couldn’t justify or rationalize have always made me so much happier than the decisions I agonized over. You might find the same is true for you.
A note for pregnant mamas and new parents: Having information about pregnancy and parents at our fingertips is incredible, but also terribly overwhelming. I poured myself into research, but when in came down to making decisions, I checked in with myself and with my baby to find the path that was right for us. Know that you have options and the right to choose every aspect of your care; I believe that a truly empowered pregnancy and birth requires the ability to make decisions based on your instinctual knowing, rather than your mind, which can so easily become clouded by fear, worry and doubt. I’ve found that all of the troubleshooting we’ve done as first-time parents has required instinct and going with our gut. (That was especially true when trying to navigate dozens of different expert opinions on our daughter’s tongue tie.)
Getting back into your body is a constant practice that requires some unlearning of old habits and frequent check-ins with yourself. With some dedication, you will see major changes as you access your knowing and relax into the flow of your life. You already have all of the tools you need.
The following practices have worked for me during different stages of my life. I recommend setting aside 5 or 10 minutes every day…choose a length of time that feels attainable to you. Select a few practices from this list (or others that work for you) and dedicate a week to each one. Notice how they feel and adopt one/s that bring you closer into connection with yourself.
- Meditation or guided meditation. Meditation can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. A meditation app can help remove the guesswork and make the practice feel accessible. Here is a list of some of the best apps that either offer free meditations or a free trial. If apps aren’t your thing, you could set a timer for yourself and put on relaxing music….or no music at all.
- Reiki. Reiki is a type of energy work. Before you write this one off as not for you, hear me out. When I lived in California, I worked with a group that offered Reiki for patients and caregivers at Stanford Hospital. We only had 10 minutes with each person in a crowded waiting room, but the results were truly amazing. We made believers out of dozens of skeptical patients each week. I was introduced to Reiki by my life coach Arda Ozdemir, and coupled with our weekly therapy sessions, Reiki changed my life.
- Qigong. Qigong is also a type of energy work. It’s a gentle exercise that involves breathing and simple, slow motions. Qigong helps me get into my body and connect with and move the energy in my body. You can find a lot of great videos on YouTube that guide you.
- Journaling. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron maps out a routine to help tap into your creativity, and one daily practice she recommends is writing. She suggests overcoming writer’s block by not getting hung up on the topic; write about whatever is occupying your mind, even if that’s a grocery list or an interaction you’re worried about that day. By writing it down and silencing the chatter in your head, you can start to tap into your inner voice.
- Yoga or other movement. Remember that the goal for this isn’t necessarily exercise, but getting into the body. Experiment with different types of yoga to see what works for you. For me, yoga nidra and yin yoga are most effective. These forms of yoga are meant to be slow and meditative. They offer a chance to check in with your body and explore your emotional well-being.
- Breathwork. A simple but very effective place to start with breathwork is belly breathing. The simple step of directing your attention to your breath can regulate your nervous system and bring you back into your body. If you’d like to hear more about the science behind breathwork and healing, this Ted Talk with Max Strom is an excellent resource.
- Self massage. According to Ayurveda, daily self massage is recommended to boost circulation, remove tension, improve sleep and nourish the body. Ideally, it’s done with oil (like sesame oil) in a warm room and followed by a warm bath or shower. You can find an overview of how to perform an Ayurvedic massage. If you don’t have time for a full massage every day, you can massage your scalp, ears, palms of your hands and soles of your feet instead. It can be easy to let your mind wander, but try to always come back to the physical sensations in your body.
- Feel your feet. This tip came from my life coach Arda Ozdemir, and it’s so easy because you can do it anytime and anywhere, and it takes about 10 seconds. If you find your thoughts spinning, anxiety swelling or you’re just in need for a reset, take a few slow breaths and concentrate on the bottoms of your feet for about 10 seconds. By directing your energy there, you send your focus from your head to your body and feel more grounded.
Let me know what you try and which practice works best for you!