Many people suffer the effects of our hectic modern-day lifestyles, and you could be one of them. Do you spend your working life sitting in front of a computer or in meetings, solving problems in your head? Do you often forget to move for hours at a time, almost as if you’re taking your body for granted? Are you wrapped up in your own thoughts and worries? Do you spend a lot of time on social media, or on your smartphone?
How can you tell if you’re ‘living in your head’?
The main symptom of spending more time ‘in your head’ than is good for you is that you are not able to be present in the moment. This can manifest in various ways – see if any of these apply to you:
- You always feel on edge or under pressure, anxious or stressed, driven to perform and achieve. You feel the weight of expectation from others and worry too much about what people think of you.
- You make plans but don’t follow through. Do you have a gym membership but never go? Or a shelf full of recipe books but never cook a meal? A bucket list of must-do’s that just highlights all the things you would love to do but don’t?
- You no longer prioritise being creative. Whether it’s media content or ready meals, you are now a passive consumer of other people’s creations rather than an active participant in shaping the life you lead.
- You no longer notice your surroundings. From birdsong to children’s laughter, or the gentle breeze on a sunny day, you’ve stopped feeling the joy of engaging with the natural world that’s all around you.
What is the mind-body connection?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that the body is so much more than a vessel for your thoughts. You may have heard about the mind-body connection, a well-known concept that explains the inextricable link between a person’s thoughts, emotions and bodily response, and how they affect each other. If you’ve ever felt your stomach tighten up when you’re anxious, or you have trouble sleeping because of worry, then you’ve experienced this connection.
If the balance shifts too much towards the mind, the body may eventually respond with a range of physical issues such as fatigue or pain, digestive problems, skin concerns and a lowered immune response. Conversely, connection to your body brings about a greater connection to joy, creativity and purpose, to others around us and the planet on which we live. Movement is linked to feeling, and our emotions come from our body, not our head.
So why doesn’t everybody just redress the balance? Such an obvious answer to a deceptively simple question. Getting back in touch with your body may sound straightforward, but there’s no doubt that it can be challenging if you’ve spent years being out of touch. Long-held habits and beliefs may have to be addressed and lifestyle choices made.
Practical ideas to reconnect with your body …
Luckily, there are many ways that we can get out of our head and reclaim and reconnect with our bodies. None of the suggestions below are difficult to do, and the results of regular practice can be transformative. Why not give them a go?
Many schools of meditation focus on the sensations of the body as a way to bypass the mind chatter. Breathing and chanting are traditionally used, but there are other ways. You can use simple walking to become aware of your body. Bring your awareness to your feet, then up through the rest of the body, relaxing each body part as you walk. Focus on how it feels – your foot on the ground below, the sun, wind or rain on your skin, the view across the valley, the smell in the air… Let the rich sensorial feast of the Great Outdoors be your healer and come back from your walk relaxed and rejuvenated.
Moving your body can take many forms. Did you know that yoga was originally invented to prepare the mind for meditation by increasing awareness? The word ‘yoga’ derives from the Sanskrit word for ‘to unite’ and the practice aims to create a union between body, mind and spirit. But whether or not you love yoga or martial arts, running or dancing, football or tennis, the important thing is to integrate elements of enjoyable physical activity into your routine. Exercise of any kind will get you out of your head and keep your body fit and healthy too.Just watch out for the dreaded Runner’s Knee.
Take the 30-day challenge
April is Stress Awareness Month – a perfect opportunity to learn about the effects of stress on the body and how you can improve your mental health. Research tells us that it takes 30 days to break a bad habit, and to turn healthy actions into long-term habits, so why not take part in the 30-Day-Challenge? Choose one action each for your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing to carry out every day and effect positive long-term behavioural change. There are loads of ideas and free resources to download including a Daily Destressing Planner, a Stress Guide, 7 Steps Achievement Plan and more.
Discover your creativity
The easiest way to live in the moment is to be fully absorbed in an enjoyable creative activity. When was the last time you painted something? Played an instrument? Carved something in wood or took photographs? Do you remember those magical childhood days when you could lose yourself in your imagination? Creative expression is doing something because it brings you joy, not for the sake of productivity or accomplishment. From cooking to gardening to joining a choir, allocate an hour or two of your weekly schedule to a creative pursuit.
Connect with other living creatures
Take the time to nurture and enjoy your relationships with others. Spend quality time with your children and rediscover the simple pleasures of playtime. Dog ownership is another healthy way to experience unconditional love, belonging and companionship. And whether you have kids or pets, both are excellent reasons to become physically active. Make time for your significant other beyond the daily grind and keep sharing your hopes and dreams. Prioritise time for family, friendships and social activities to improve your physical and psychological well being, and give a greater sense of purpose and meaning in your life.