Awareness is a word that’s used often in a variety of circles. I was listening to a Gary V podcast the other day and he’s really big on awareness, self-awareness to be specific. Makes sense, right? You can’t really achieve your goals unless you have a good understanding about your values, strengths, and so on. I also talk a lot about awareness, but in a slightly different context. I talk about being aware of your body. Which, can be confusing. So, this post is dedicated to talking about two key things. One, what the heck is body awareness? And two, how do you develop it?
So, what is body awareness?
There are levels or layers of awareness and I suspect that even those who seem to be completely in tune with their body, still have much to learn about themselves.
The first and perhaps most fundamental layer is actually feeling your body, being connected to it. When we feel pain or discomfort (emotional or physical) we often disconnect from those feelings. When this happens, we’re really not aware of our body. Sure, we’re functioning in it, but we’re ignoring it. We’re disconnected.
You can try several different “experiments” to try to reconnect with your body. The simplest is the meditation that I described in this post.
Essentially you close your eyes, take several deep breaths, so that you’re focusing on your breath, and then you do a body scan. From head to toe, you start assessing what and how you feel. If I close my eyes right now I can feel the beginnings of a caffeine headache behind my left eye. I can feel the pressure of the couch on my back, the tightness of my watch band, the cool air on my toes. If I get quieter, then I can feel my heart beating, the cool air in my nostrils, and the fact that I have some hunger pangs, but I only feel them on the left side of my stomach. Weird.
You can also get a little trippy and just observe a body part. Look at your hand for a minute. Move your fingers. Do you feel your muscles and tendons moving? Can you sense the air flow over the tiny hairs on the back of your hand? If you get really quiet, can you feel your pulse in your wrist?
So, awareness is both inside and outside your body and you have to get quiet and attentive to experience it.
Applying Awareness to Your Health Goals and Lifestyle
Awarenesstakes practice. But it’s a practice that’s well worth the effort because then you can apply your logical brain to the process.
For example, I feel hunger pangs on the left side of my stomach. So, my brain jumps in and I assess. When was the last time I ate? Am I really hungry? What does my energy level and blood sugar level feel like? Am I thirsty? When was the last time I had something to drink because I know that thirst often masks as hunger?
This awareness then allows you to make decisions based on not only what your body is feeling but also what you know to be true.
So that the next time you “feel” hungry you can assess. You might realize that you just ate two hours ago and there’s no reason why you should be hungry. You can then look at what you ate and dig deeper. If you ate carbs but didn’t have any fat with them, then you have the awareness that type of meal doesn’t last long in your system.
Likewise, the next time you have a craving, you can assess. What are you craving? Why are you craving it? What does it feel like in your body and what happened in the hour or two before the craving? (This is important if you are an emotional eater. You may crave cookies or chips, for example, during times of stress). You can then make a decision about what you want to put into your body.
Awareness helps you begin to make better decisions about your health, nutrition, lifestyle and more.
You can begin to apply awareness to people, activities, and so on. For example, you may become aware that every time you have a conversation with someone in your life, your shoulders get tight and your breathing becomes shallow. Now you have that information, you can start digging deeper and making decisions. Do you stop talking with that person as often? Why do you have this experience when you talk with them? What can you do to be more relaxed around them? And so on…
You can begin practicing awareness and building your skills today. Just start asking yourself how you’re feeling and practicing awareness. It can make a huge impact on your life and how you live it.