Many of us have lived inside our heads for so long that we’ve all but lost the connection to our physical selves. We can feel the discomfort of dis-ease, but in general, we don’t feel the various parts of our body. Why are most of us deaf to the whispers of the physical body and only able to hear the screams?
Trauma survival is one mind-body divider. Numbing and resistance often play a significant role in how we detach from our physical bodies after having experienced trauma. Trauma can include anything from getting lost in the grocery store as a young child to being immersed in fear of the current pandemic.
Left-brain focus — using logic and analysis to get things accomplished — is rewarded in our society, and it is a second way in which we tend to detach from our bodies. We often lean on our left-brains to distract ourselves from our emotional experience. We plan, analyze, worry, organize, research and frantically clean the house. Logic, or mental processing, is only one of our strengths as humans, and it is the one many of us tend to rely on most heavily.
Inner wisdom, and the path to healing, comes through the body, not the mind. As we balance the mind with the body, we can uncover the real source of our suffering and heal those wounds.
Three Body Tools
The following are three body tools:
• Exercise — There is no shortage of studies proving that physical exercise relieves stress. When we experience challenging events, our nervous systems go into fight-or-flight — tensing up our muscles, releasing a concoction of hormones like adrenaline, and slowing the mechanics of our non-vital organs in that moment (think digestive organs, immune system, various brain functions). Different forms of exercise have different benefits, but engaging in activities that both contract and release your muscles is essential in bringing balance back to your nervous system.
• Breathe — The breath can be especially powerful when you feel out of control. Fortunately, the rhythm of your breath is the only autonomic function that you can control. The simplest way to start is to notice your breathing. Is it shallow? Are the inhales and exhales short, and do they reside in your chest? If so, make a conscious effort to inhale deeply through your nose, visualize the air being pulled all the way down to your belly, and exhale through your mouth.
Continue in this way for several cycles. Bring your attention to your body — the sensation of air being pulled in through your nose, the softening in your heart as you allow that air to continue deeper into the relaxing muscles of your belly, and then the relief of the audible exhale from the mouth.
• Touch — Grounding, or earthing, is the process of absorbing the earth’s free-flowing electrons from its surface through the soles of one’s feet, transferring the ground’s energy into the body. In addition to receiving this calming resource from the earth, we can transfer energy through human touch. Hugging is a basic human need, and there’s scientific evidence to prove it!
Here are a few reasons for giving and receiving that simple, yet powerful form of affection:
• Boosts oxytocin (aka the “love drug”) and serotonin which calm your nervous system and elevate your mood
• Lowers your blood pressure
• Strengthens your immune system
• Brings you to the present moment
• Relaxes your body (switches on your parasympathetic nervous system)
Three mind tools
The following are three mind tools:
• Witness the Chatter — Open a notebook, grab a pen, and set a timer for ten minutes. Now sit down and free-write. Mind dump. Clear the clutter. This stream of consciousness exercise will go a long way in showing you what thoughts are looping in your mind without your awareness. You are not your thoughts, and engaging in this exercise is a gigantic step in reigning in the stronghold they unknowingly have on you.
• Engage Your Senses — Give your mind something to do! Immersing yourself in the present moment is easy when you get your five senses involved, and you can enlist your mind in this activity.
Stop whatever you’re doing and look around. What do you see? Name five things your eyes reveal to you.
Now get still and notice what you hear. What sounds do you discover with your ears? Name four of them.
Bring your awareness to your tactile sense. Do you sense a specific temperature or maybe a breeze? What are your feet touching? Your hands? Identify three of these.
What do you smell? If there seems to be nothing discernible in the air, try inhaling the scent of your skin or recall the aroma from this morning’s breakfast. Let your nose find two scents.
What do you taste? Is there a lingering flavor on your tongue?
• Five-Minute Challenge — Let your body speak to your mind and listen. When your five minutes is up, note how you feel.
1. Set your timer for 5 minutes.
2. Find a comfy spot to sit or lie down.
3. Start mindfully breathing for a few seconds.
4. Acknowledge and then send unconditional love to any current pain, illness, challenge, disease, chronic condition or discomfort.
5. Imagine releasing all stress or anger over having this challenge.