3 simple tips to help you change your mood by paying attention to your body. Love your body and be happy.
How often do we disregard signals our body is sending us? How often do we treat it as a, well, servant - expecting it to be always on call, consistently well and healthy, available? Instead, we criticise it, or even worse. We scold it like a naughty child.
What's wrong with you? I need you to be fit and well.
Why are you hurting? I cannot afford to be ill right now.
I don't have time for these aches and pains.
We treat our brain as a master. Our body is something that's also there. Not as important, though.
But in reality, they both are equally important. Because, let's be honest, what will the brain do without a healthy body to inhabit? Remember those sci-fi movies and cartoons where the brain lived in jars? We are not there yet. We need our bodies. Our bodies are our greatest assets. More than that, they are our friends. And we need to treat them with tender kindness and care.
“Our own physical body possesses a wisdom which we who inhabit the body lack. We give it orders which make no sense.” —Henry Miller
The thing with human attention is that whatever we focus on gets our energy. We cannot pay attention to many things at once. Multitasking is a myth. Instead, if we pay attention to negative thoughts that play on repeat within our grey matter, we will see negativity all around us.
If we concentrate on aches and pains, we will see more aches and pains.
The point of today's article is to help our bodies feel heard and loved and lift our moods at the same time. We will consciously focus our attention on our friend physical body. And as if by magic, we will improve our overall well-being.
How do we achieve it? By completing 3 simple exercises:
1. Name 3 to 5 pleasant feelings within your body
Ironically, as humans, we have no trouble thinking negative thoughts. According to Rick Hanson, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. We might think we want to always be happy. But we are pre-programmed in such a way that negative ruminations are, well, natural to us. And positive thoughts - we need to work on bringing them out.
And when we finally listen to our body, we tend to listen to its pains and discomfort. But that only feeds the negative rumination. Sigh. More negativity is discovered, which proves our internal point that everything is not great.
So, instead, we will actively encourage our brain to concentrate and think of 3 to 5 positive feelings and experiences within our body. How do your clothes feel against your skin? What about that new soap you are using? Do you like the scent?
Pay attention to your body when doing this exercise. You will notice how your shoulders drop and your overall tension decreases. It happens because you consciously feed your brain good thoughts. And it likes it. So it relaxes. As we know, a relaxed body is a happy body.
"Being a healthy woman isn’t about getting on a scale or measuring your waistline. We need to start focusing on what matters — on how we feel, and how we feel about ourselves."— Michelle Obama
2. What are you trying to tell me?
Exercise two is all about listening to your physical body and decoding its messages.
When it experiences pain or discomfort, do you know why? Do you tense your body too much without realising it? Do you grind your teeth and create discomfort within your jaws and maybe within your head?
So now, instead of simply noticing, "ah, my back is hurting" and doing nothing about it - ask your body "why". Pretend it's your friend who can answer. Be frank with your friend, ask: "why are you hurting?" or "why is my back hurting?"
But there is one trick - this friend does not use your language. She speaks a language of her own. This language consists of symbols, dreams, insights, hidden meanings and explanations, and signs of nature.
If you are a mum, you might know how it feels. When your baby starts talking, you are the only one capable of decoding his crypted messages.
Or if you know someone who does not speak very good English. You can almost guess what she is trying to say. But unless you trust your intuition, or use additional tools to interpret the conversation, you might miss the point.
The same with your body. Be open to "hearing it" out, any way it wants to talk to you. You might have a very explicit dream where you remember that in school you would always tense your shoulders before presenting something to the whole class. And now at work, everytime there is a presentation to be made, you find yourself as tense as a statue.
Related post:I wrote about listening to your body in this article about cultivating curious awareness with a 2 minute exercise.
“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.”—Friedrich Nietzsche
3. Give yourself a quick hug
It would be nice to have a hugging machine on demand, wouldn't it? You need a hug, you press a button and voila! Or a robot giving massages to help remove stress and tension from your body. You think of it, and here it is. Gentle hands are rubbing your shoulders.
Well, let's give future inventors a rest because you can do it all yourself. How? By simply giving yourself a hug or squeezing opposite shoulders. You see, you can release tension as well as any robot-masseuse.
As mentioned, self-hugging helps to release all the tension, and it's a form of self-massage. The thing is that when your complete focus is on your body, not your thoughts, this mini-exercise does precisely what any other form of physical activity would do. It releases dopamine, a hormone of happiness and your touch tricks your body into releasing "love hormone" oxytocin. Oxytocin also serves as a sort of pain relief. Because again, when you are happy, you are less tense and some of your musles that might be in semi-permanenet discomfort for whatever reason will relax.
Give yourself a hug. Maybe pat your shoulders very slightly as you do. Then change arms. Breathe in - hug, breathe out - release. Do it a couple of times. Or even better, put an alarm on for every hour. And give yourself a quick healing self-loving hug. Because who else can hug you with so much love and affection as yourself.
Related post: why not try this article on breathing exercise to regain focus?
“Speak to your body in a loving way. It’s the only one you’ve got, it’s your home, and it deserves your respect.”—Iskra Lawrence
And there you have it. 3 simple exercises to increase your mood by actively engaging with your best friend, your body. Go and have fun! And remember, anytime you feel down, simply ask yourself, why am I feeling this way? The chances are your best friend will give you a quick and honest answer.