I recently had a conversation with a colleague and good friend about listening to your body. I mentioned that diet is simple, just listen to what your body says about the foods you eat. His response to that was, “How am I going to tell someone to listen to the subtle messages the body creates when they come into the office with an injury that caused their leg to go numb two years ago? That person’s leg has been talking to him (or not talking to him) for two years and they haven’t listened at all, how are they going to listen to something much more subtle than that?” I Hadn’t thought about that. I hadn’t thought about how disconnected we are from what is happening in our bodies. Today I want to help you understand what I mean when I say “Just listen to your body.” As well as give you a few tips on how to do it better.
Why are we disconnected?
We have been taught our whole lives that there is an authority greater than us that knows more about our health. That authority has become known to us as the Doctor. When we’re sick we go to the doctor, when we don’t know what’s going on we go to the doctor, when we are in pain and don’t know why, we go to the doctor. In many cases, the doctor is exactly what we need. In many more cases, the innate wisdom that our bodies and minds possess is all we need.
We are also, often given a large subset of information that is supposed to be the cure-all end-all for any and all ailments. This is especially true in the diet world. I can’t begin to count the amount I’ve heard that said about different diets. Many diets will tout impressive results in health and wellness yet when you look into and compare them one to another they often contradict in advice. How can two diets which tell you to eat and not eat the exact opposite express the same results in individuals regarding their improvement in health? Why can you have such amazing results when the process to get there is vastly different or even exactly opposite? It all comes down to the individual. Everyone is so different regarding their genetics, allergies, predispositions to disease, lifestyle choices etcetera. You name it and people are different so there is no one size fits all method to health and wellness. The best thing to do is learn to listen to your body so you can decide what is right for your health because you are the master of your health. Us doctors are only just here to help facilitate that learning.
One of the other wildly important reasons we have become disconnected is because of what we have been given to cope. In many households if you feel something that you don’t like, the solution is to numb the feeling or the whole body. We all have been guilty of searching for something to numb our feelings of physical spiritual or emotional pain at some point. The ways we get there are different but the end goal is the same, disconnecting from pain. Alcohol, social media, over the counter pain killers like ibuprofen, marijuana, hard drugs, movies, and even exercise are all means that can be used to disconnect from ourselves, and not feel discomfort. Not all of these things are bad and some may even become necessary at some point in your life. Chronic use of these things to numb yourself from what you feel is where the issue is. If we are constantly numbing symptoms we can never find the solution to the problem. The old saying “No pain, no gain” takes a different meaning when we are working towards solutions to our problems by feeling them completely without disconnecting from ourselves. a common misconception about drugs is that they target the source of pain. That is completely false. drugs work by numbing the entire body and mind. Everything we do or ingest has effects on more than just the target. Enough about being disconnected lets figure out how to reconnect.
How do we reconnect with our bodies?
First of all, don’t feel bad if you don’t feel like you’re connected to your body and listening to it well, It is a learned process and a difficult one at that. The body speaks a subtle language that takes time to understand. Occasionally we are also forced to disregard what our bodies are asking us to do because of other responsibilities, Think 3 am, you wake up to the baby crying, you’re dog tired but you have to disregard sleep, what your body is telling you to do, to make sure the baby is ok. There are many more examples where disregarding what your body says becomes necessary but to function optimally, listening as often as possible is highly valuable.
So let’s break it down Into a few categories in which we can all likely listen to our bodies a little better to improve wellness.
Feeling tired is likely one of the most obvious signals the body and mind try to communicate to us. When you feel tired it is most likely due to needing sleep, and not a caffeine deficiency. It is easy to notice that sleep is calling towards the evening, but we often ignore the call during that afternoon lull. For many people taking an afternoon power nap is a great antidote to that lull, and I believe that it is a great way to listen to your body. Next time you feel the urge to sleep in the middle of the day try a 15-30 minute power nap but make sure you don’t nap past 30 minutes or you risk feeling groggy when you wake up. When you do wake up pat yourself on the back for listening to your body. For more info on the power, naps take a read here.
How do you know what you’re supposed to eat? What’s healthy and what’s not healthy depends largely on your own body. Because diet is so unique it also depends on you to figure out and remember what your body responds well to, and what it doesn’t respond well to. To figure that out my recommendation is to remove all of the known, common problematic foods from your diet in what is called an elimination diet. The whole 30 diet or the plant paradox diet are two good examples to follow. After you have eliminated all common problematic foods you should start feeling different in about a month. When I have done these types of diets I have noticed that My gut feels different. I wasn’t bloated, I had a consistent schedule for bowel movements, I even seemed to think more clearly. I did however miss a lot of foods that I had eliminated, so I slowly added them back. For example, one day I added back wheat, and I found that unless the wheat was fermented like in sourdough breads would get bloated from it. I was listening to my body very closely to see how I responded, and I knew when symptoms popped up I had to look back at what I ate to figure out what caused me to feel that way and then avoid eating it in the future.
When your body asks you to move it seems to be quite subtle. You might get a feeling of restlessness in your legs, you might get a slight ache in the low back, or your neck might start to hurt. If you feel like you need to move or stretch go do it. Your joints lubricate themselves with movement, your blood flow increases, and your mental health benefits greatly from movement. Whenever you feel the need, go move.
We all get stressed. Stress is a big part of what has kept us alive as a species. Without stress, you wouldn’t feel the need to run from a bear or avoid thin ice, both of which could easily end this journey we call life. The constant stress that we face now, seemingly every time we open our work email, is very unhealthy. We aren’t designed to run on that high of a stress level. Taking time to reduce stress by doing something you love is a great way to listen to your body. Next time you feel stressed take a minute to slow down and breathe. This is probably one of the most difficult things to accomplish largely because stress often comes from outside factors, like work money, or relationships. Learning how to mitigate stress by listening to your body will help in all those aspects because when you’re less stressed you can think more clearly and therefore solve more problems.
Eventually, I would love to see that people are listening to their bodies when it comes to chiropractic care. What happens in the days after getting adjusted? What feels better? For me, my mind tends to clear some and I am slower to respond negatively to adversity. I notice that when I need to get adjusted those are the first symptoms that come back. If I continue to ignore the need for an adjustment my symptoms only worsen. If you aren’t under regular chiropractic care, I definitely recommend it to everyone because you will start to notice how good you didn’t know you could feel.
How do I know where to start?
There’s a lot of information here and it is hard to know where to start. I think the best thing to do is find a quiet place where you can think. Take a pen and paper with you and write about how you feel and what you would like to change. Ask yourself what doesn’t feel quite right and then listen. You might notice that your stomach is a little upset, or that you have a headache that you have pushed out of your mind, maybe you’re bloated, or you have some brain fog. Those types of symptoms aren’t normal, they are common but they are not normal. Take note of these issues and then start to change things. If you don’t know what to change book an appointment with me, we can talk about tons of things you can change. Who knows chiropractic may be the first step you need to take to change your life for the better. The first thing you need to do is check in with yourself, the first step to change is recognizing that there is a problem.
It takes a lot of time
I didn’t start paying attention to my body until I was partway through chiropractic college. It took me a long time to understand what my body was saying and why it was saying those things. I still have to check in with myself when I am not feeling well to remember and understand what I need to change to improve how I feel. It is a process, don’t get frustrated with it, and be patient with who you’ve never become. As you get better at listening to your body you will notice great changes in your health because the innate wisdom of the beautiful creation you are will show itself.
We look forward to meeting you! Come down to Happy Family Chiropractic and meet your Chiropractor in Juneau! It will be our pleasure in serving you high quality chiropractic care.