October 2, 2022
Trusting Your Body
This relationship to ourselves that I’m describing is one that takes time, effort, is established by a consistent and honest inner dialogue and is fortified by the integrity of our actions and choices. It is a relationship where our internal world becomes configured in such a way that our external movements and choices are a direct reflection of our deep connection to our needs and desires. 

“I felt that was going to happen.”
“I knew you were going to say that!”
“I could feel it coming.”
“I just knew I had to do something.”

These are the phrases I think of when I consider the experience of “trusting your body.” Each of these statements expresses this beautiful relationship between mind and body, connected to one another in such a way that has attuned us to ourselves clearly and honestly from the inside out. It is this  alignment that then allows us to receive the energy and the people of the moment with just as much clarity. 

This relationship to ourselves that I’m describing is one that takes time, effort, and is established by a consistent and honest inner dialogue and is fortified by the integrity of our actions and choices. It is a relationship where our internal world becomes configured in such a way that our external movements and choices are a direct reflection of our deep connection to our needs and desires. 

But taking a step back for a moment - how do we even begin to establish such a relationship to our bodies? How do we even get to a place where we can know what our bodies are asking from us? And what does trusting our bodies even mean?

Let’s start at the root, with the very definition of the word trust. 

The word is said to have originated from a few different Old Norse and Germanic words, each of which are defined as help, confidence, protection, support, comfort, consolation, fidelity, and alliance. Then there are the more complex demonstrations of trust, such as honest self-expression, proof of character through actions, and proof of reliance and resilience within the container of a relationship. 

It can be easy to imagine these definitions and demonstrations being applied to a relationship to another person, but our relationships to other people is not unlike our relationship to ourselves. 

So I’d like for us to consider building our relationship to our body as if we were building a relationship with another person. Let’s start at the beginning. 

1. Introduce yourself

The first step to establish any relationship and keep it growing is obviously to start with an introduction, followed by actively listening to and observing the other person in order to really get to know them. 

An introduction to your body on a regular basis can look like the simple practice that meditation guru Joseph Goldstein recommends in this episode of Ten Percent Happier. He suggests simply stating to yourself the phrase, “I have a body”. This might seem trivial and ridiculously obvious, but bringing mindfulness to the sense that you’re not just your mind can truly be the starting point to establish your relationship with your whole self. Your awareness expands with a simple, truthful statement, and it can be practiced any time and in any moment.

Additionally, listening to and observing our bodies might look like actually asking our bodies direct questions, such as “how are you feeling today”, doing body scans and feeling into certain parts of our bodies to sense any soreness, tightness, etc, and using that information to understand more how our habits and movements affect us. It can also look like paying attention to how emotions manifest in the body, and how, where, and when you feel them. 

Furthering our relationship can continue with a few questions, specifically related to the above definitions of trust. Questions such as:

How do I help my body? How does my body help me?
In what ways can I be confident in my body? How can my body be confident in me?
How does my body protect me? How do I protect my body?
And so on…

Following these practices will build a more consistent mind-body dialogue. It will encourage more habitual, and automatic check-ins, further developing awareness to the physical cues that your body is making you aware of.

 

2. Build the relationship

The second step is taking all this information that you’ve learned about the other person (or in this case, your body) and doing something with it. 

Let’s say this new friend really likes listening to live music, so you decide to take them to a concert. Similarly, what does your body tell you that it likes or needs, and how can you give it to yourself? 

For example, you’ve just done a body scan and you feel a tightness in your lower back from sitting all day. Perhaps take a few moments to stretch, breathe into your lower back, or apply a warm muscle rub. 

Or you’re currently hanging out with someone, you’ve just asked your body how it’s feeling, and you get the feedback that you’re a little tight and constricted. Maybe take a moment to assess if you feel comfortable with that person, in that situation, or ask yourself if you can give yourself anything to help you feel more relaxed (such as a few deep breaths, or a glass of water).

It can also be little things such as noticing when you really want to give a friend a hug (or refuse a hug), reaching out to check in on the person you were just thinking of, or leaving yourself a warm cup of tea to come back to after a long walk in the cool fall air.

The more we act on the little cues our bodies communicate with us (whether by taking action towards or setting up a boundary from) the more we tell our bodies that we see and hear them. We believe what they’re telling us, we’re doing our best to enhance our relationship to them, and we care for them. 

Just as we would with a new friend, this establishes trust. 

 

3. Commit

The last step is to honor the agreements you’ve made with your friend (aka your body). The same way we would stick to commitments we’ve made with friends for dinner dates, or not sharing secrets, or regular check ins, we have these same agreements with our bodies. 

Going beyond honoring our basic needs such as feeding ourselves when we’re hungry, or drinking when we’re thirsty, or resting when we’re tired (all of which are big signals to our bodies that we’re listening and caring for them, btw), what are the other promises you’ve made to yourself that you will follow through with? 

For example, maybe you told your body that you would do a weekly yoga class to help stretch out your lower back. Or you would make sure that you were honoring your gut instincts about certain people or places you spend time with. 

Sticking to these commitments further enhances our belief and reliance on our bodily cues, and deepens the trust between our bodies and our actions.

 

4. Keep going even when it gets tough

At this point you might be thinking, okay, this is starting to sound a lot easier than it actually is in practice. And you’re right!

Sometimes listening to our bodies can be incredibly easy, and other times it can be equally as scary. We each have a different relationship to our bodies, and especially if we’ve experienced a physical trauma in the past, developing a safe and supportive relationship to our bodies can be challenging, frustrating, or frightening. Additionally, it can be even more daunting or difficult to actually follow through with the cues our body is sharing with us.

When we are not in the practice of listening to our bodies, or not trusting our bodily cues, we enter into dissociation. It’s as if we’ve lost touch with an old friend, and when we eventually choose to meet up again, the conversation can feel clumsy or awkward. It can take time (and belief and patience) to rebuild an understanding of one another and build a sense of safety together. 

Additionally, the mind can sometimes be really loud about what we think we "should" do, and cloud our instinctual understanding of a person, situation, or decision. It can be all too easy to let the habits of people pleasing, not wanting to let others down, living up to social standards, and not wanting to indirectly push people away enter into the conversation.

With all of this in consideration, I will share a truism that I use all too often: it takes baby steps. 

Taking brief moments on a regular basis to state, “I have a body” might be all that you need to get the mind and body on the same page. Same with doing brief body scans, or occasionally taking deep breaths - these can be simple ways to signal to your body that you’re present with it and here to develop your relationship. 

It does not take much beyond these practices to build the pathways of communication, and to start recognizing the clear signals that arise virtually all the time. Signals that lead towards what feels generative and supportive, and signals that lead away from what feels degenerative and not for us. 

Just like building any new relationship, it just might take a little time, and a little practice to make it happen.

 

_______

Our bodies move at their own pace, and it can sometimes feel like our pace does not line up with the pace of people around us. As we sift through information on a physical level, we can also sometimes discover that what is true for us does not line up with what is true for others. This could conjure up the feeling that if we honor what our bodies are asking for, we could potentially lose people or opportunities. 

But this is where we must remember - if our body is giving us a signal to move forward or not move forward on something, that signal is there for a reason. What is for us will not miss us.

If we keep up the small practices that support our mind-body dialogue, the easier it will be to hear clearly and take action for the big signals our body gives us. 

When it’s time to change our jobs, or make difficult requests from others, or even change our diets, we become more capable of implementing the steps to make these changes possible, simply by listening to what our body is telling us. Following the signals that FEEL generative and regenerative, and paying attention to the signals that feel depressing or dissociative will motivate us naturally to enact small incremental changes that make the big changes possible.

The more we honor the feelings of what our bodies are asking for the more we establish trust in our needs, our pace, and ourselves. The more trust our internal signals as clear signs to follow, the more we naturally live in alignment with who we’re authentically meant to be.

Happiness

The Power of Saying No

Self Worth