This week we’ve been talking about the practice of being present – of being mindful and in the moment. Tuesday we talked about the problem. We talked about why tuning out can cause issues for us in terms of our creativity and our physical health. Then yesterday we got curious about why we aren’t doing what seems to be in our best interests. We realized that there were some real reasons for our challenges, and that change might be hard.
Fortunately, “hard” doesn’t have to mean “impossible”.
To change our avoidance pattern around listening to our emotions will require that we take time and make space to learn tools of emotional self-regulation. Something as simple as learning some calming deep breathing techniques can help us get closer to being able to look at the emotions that we are avoiding. Developing movement and sensory-based practices will increase that ability. And for many people, taking the time to work with a coach or therapist for a period of time to deal with issues that you’ve been avoiding for a while can be a necessary and important step to reconnecting.
When it comes to tuning back into our bodies we may need to go back to very simple ideas – things like turning off media while we eat so that we can begin to pay attention to the food that we’re eating and it’s tastes and sensations; others will find it more helpful to spend time in nature – to lie on the sand, listen to the waves, run through long, wet grass on a cool morning or watch a sunset – all while disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with our physical senses.
Tuning inward – perhaps to our hunger and thirst cues – can be a second step. For instance, we can take eating and drinking out of the realm of ‘thoughtless’ and bring it into a more intentional way of being. From there, we can start to do brief body scans – taking just a few moments first thing in the morning and last thing at night and just tuning in to how each part of your body is feeling. Once you gain confidence with this you can start to bring some of your new mindfulness to movement-based activities, such as walking, running, biking, weight lifting, or whatever activities you want to engage in.
For some people approaching these changes will feel manageable – they just need a little nudge to get them started. For others, just reading this list felt overwhelming, threatening or terrifying. If this is you, I would strongly recommend that you reach out to a therapist or coach who can walk you through this process and create a safe space for you to engage and develop a reconnection with your body. Not only will it help to reduce injuries while you’re training, but there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that it can significantly improve your overall health.
So while it may be a slow – and even difficult – process, the more you build comfort with your emotions and your body the better you will be able to choose to be present – even in the midst of physical activities that are difficult and push you to your limit. And you will find that developing these techniques of tuning in to your emotions and your body will have wide ripples of benefit in your life.