We often hear (or are told) to do well-meaning things like “be in your body,” “be present,” “feel your feelings,” or “get grounded.” These platitudes might sound good in theory but can raise the questions of “What does that even mean and how do I actually do it?” Here are five ways that you can “be in your body” (and why it matters).
What’s the Big Deal?
Dominant culture, especially organizational culture, places a lot of value on being in our heads. Intellectual intelligence, ideas, opinions, beliefs, rationality, and critical thinking are placed at a high premium. As such, we spend a lot of time and focus on what’s happening in our minds.
Being in your body means also giving value, time, and focus to what’s happening in our bodies. When coaching, I’ve been surprised at the number of clients who literally have no idea what’s happening below their neck. Even identifying an emotion or sensation seems foreign.
Our bodies contain a wealth of information, intelligence, and even keys to fulfillment. They can tell us about our needs, wants, and desires. They allow us to experience pleasure and connection. They provide clues around our health and well-being, such as signaling when something is out of balance or when we need to eat or sleep. Ignoring our bodies in favor of our minds is like ignoring the defense in favor of the offense in a sport or only paying attention to one piece of evidence while ignoring other pieces of evidence in a trial. We end up missing out on a lot of valuable information with the potential to dramatically change our experience.
Being in Your Body
Following are five simple ways to be in your body that you can do in less than one minute throughout the day:
- Notice your body
Scan your body from head to toe and identify sensations and emotions. Sensations might include itching, tingling, calmness, tension, or pain. You can also connect to sensation through the five senses, including food, music, and art. Emotions typically fall under larger buckets such as mad, sad, glad, scared, and shame. Challenge yourself to identify as many sensations and emotions as you can while expanding your emotional vocabulary. Also, pause to notice your breath without worrying if it’s right or wrong. Notice if it’s fast or slow, deep or shallow, or if you’re unconsciously holding your breath.
- Feel your feelings
We often go towards extremes of either repressing feelings or allowing them to take over. As the saying goes, “Emotions are like children: you don’t want them driving the car, but you don’t want to lock them in the trunk.” Instead, when you notice an emotion or feeling, simply feel it without needing to “do” anything with it. For example, if you feel tears coming on, let them come and notice them. If you feel angry, identify where you experience the anger in your body, pay attention to your breath, and feel the anger without saying or doing anything.
- Move your body
While regular and extended exercise is a great way to be in your body, you can also do small forms of movement throughout the day. Stretching, jumping up and down, singing, and intentionally taking deep breaths can be done frequently in as short as five seconds. Identify one calming form of movement and one energizing form of movement and practice it regularly.
Touch is vital to our well-being. Studies show that babies can actually die without touch. Finding safe ways to experience healthy touch, even with something as simple as a handshake or hug, can help us connect more to our bodies. Of course, it’s important to honor your boundaries around what feels good to you. Identify some preferred forms of touch and seek them out. Remember that there are many non-human forms of touch, such as pets, plants (think gardening), or even sitting or walking on grass.
Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can take you out of analysis, problem-solving, or judgment (all mental) and connect you to the physical. When someone is sharing their experience or talking about something important to them, imagine what they might be feeling or experiencing, recall a time when you’ve had a similar experience, or notice your heartbeat. This can help you be in your own body while also being more connected to theirs.
Embodying “Being in Your Body”
There are many reasons why we might avoid being in our bodies. Cultural messages around emotions, shame and judgment around our bodies, lack of knowledge, or hyper-focus around mental abilities can cause us to disconnect or even momentarily forget that we even have a body! When being more in your body, buried emotions or experiences can surface. The more you can stay in your body with the above practices, even when you feel uncomfortable, the more easily you’ll get through them and uncover valuable wisdom, meaning, and connection. To go deeper into this practice, consider:
- What do you notice when you are more in your body?
- What might you gain from being more in your body?
- What approaches help you be more in your body, and how can you do more of them?
- What are some fears or challenges you have around being in your body?
- What other platitudes seem vague or confusing, and how can you learn more about what they really mean?
Fun Fact: This entire post came to me and was written in a dream, which is a first!