The body tells a fantastic story, does she not? I believe in body language, not only the way she blatantly betrays my deepest emotions, but the messages (sometimes loud, sometimes soft) she offers on my comportment in life.
“Body language is a very powerful tool. We had body language before we had speech, and apparently, eighty percent of what you understand in a conversation is read through the body, not the words.” Deborah Bull
I was not taught to listen to my body while growing up, I was taught to listen to my parents, and if I was not in agreement I could always go to my room and storm the walls with rolled up socks. It was not only effective in terms of alleviating frustration but eventually had me laughing at my own folly.
As an adult it’s alarming all the strategies I have at my disposal to deal with frustration. Adults commonly use three addictive practices when dealing with discontent: numbing, distracting, or consuming. They are efficacious practices and unfortunately many of us are susceptible to the pull of these destructive patterns. The problem is you think you’re managing your stress privately but your body tells a completely different story. Are we ready to listen?
Have you ever woke up with a sore jaw, painful hangover, or intense indigestion because you were suppressing an issue instead of confronting it? I have, on numerous occasions, and let me just say it’s an unpleasant experience both physically and mentally. Let’s put the discomfort and humiliation aside, abusing the body is a form of denial, and it’s damaging. My body is doing a stellar job at conveying information but often I refuse to listen. By colluding with these isolating methods I’m only feeding the suppressed emotions. It’s a Catch 22, where’s the illuminated exit?
We all need validation and the research shows when we communicate effectively we not only nurturing our relationships but improving our sense of well-being and self esteem. According to Neha Sangwan, M.D., “those who have solid relationships where they can share their emotions and feel supported tend to live longer. Those who feel misunderstood report a higher rate of depression.” Hello? Do you know what this means?
Friendship is not a nice idea but a mandatory practice for those of us interested in robust mental and physical health. This has nothing to do with the three hundred Facebook acquaintances you regularly like and comment on, but face to face interactions with real people, especially those who are genuine and kind. What a concept?
Making time to socialize with good friends and more importantly engaging in valid conversations is as important as breathing. I’m not talking about banal chit chat, I talking about exploring our deeply held beliefs, seeking affirmation, counsel, connection. It is the uncomfortable conversations that help us come to a better understanding of self, God, and the infamous other. This facilitates our ability to maneuver effectively in the world. Why drive a Edsel when you can get behind a Lamborghini? Let’s talk about it.
I decided to choose one healthy activity every day, the rest can be platitudinous, or slightly detrimental. It’s summer! Time to let your hair down. Make that phone call to hike with a friend, take my granddaughter to tea, grab a coffee with my sister, go to the gym and engage with someone, invite my co-workers over for wine and cheese, start a book club, gather up the family for dinner, or maybe host a marshmallow roast in the back yard with dear friends. Keep it simple. Repeat.
“Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.” Ann Landers
Depression is on the rise in our society. It has become a major health risk. Brene Brown says a deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. Brown warns when those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick. It happens to all of us.
“The truth is: Belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect.” Brene Brown
I went back to the gym today for the first time since I broke my foot. I started out slow with a beginners palates class. The instructor was engaging, encouraging, and funny. It felt good to stretch out my atrophied muscles as if released from a prolonged captivity. But I also noticed a heightened sense of well-being as the endorphins kicked in, and those darling peptides activated my body’s opiate receptors, causing that desired analgesic effect. This is working out! Get it?
“In its passivity and resignation, cynicism is a hardening, a calcification of the soul. Hope is a stretching of its ligaments, a limber reach for something greater.” Maria Popova
This is what I concluded ~ If the body reflects the patterns of behavior in which I frequently engage than the body must be the secret to real change.
When I’m being inflexible I start stretching my limbs and I’m amazed how flexibility starts manifesting itself in my life. When my behavior matches my values, I feel calm, peaceful, aligned. This is body language at it’s best. Somehow the simple act of elongating my muscles allows me to stretch my boundaries with others. The limber reach for something greater…
Laughing, loudly, and frequently. I read a paper on laughter with cancer patients, it found that people in the laughter intervention group (what the hell is that?) experienced more stress relief than those who were using simple distractions. So watch a funny show, hang out with friends who make you laugh, better yet find the humor in your own troubles.
Let her roll!
When I was protecting myself during my mothers illness under layers of unwanted insulation I had to consider changing my relationship with food. Instead of pulling up to the refrigerator with a fork, while the Bachelorette was playing in the background, I tried setting a nice table, lighting a candle, arranging fresh flowers. Taking time to really taste my food, feeling free to moan out loud when so inspired, and eating for the sheer pleasure of experiencing sublime flavors instead of stuffing myself emotionally as if a turkey. Gobble, gobble…
The body and soul crave ritual. Okay, the truth is I crave ritual, it’s obnoxious really, mess up my daily patterns, and I’m not a happy camper. “We don’t have too much ritual in our life anymore. And these life symbols which people rely on to keep their feeling of well being, that life is not too bad after all are required more and more,” notes John Hench.
So I’m sticking with my daily routines; morning coffee with Larry, followed by a warm shower, soft cooked egg, calling my sister on the way to work, a simple prayer to start off my classes, cleaning out my email in the afternoon, wine at five, walking the dog after dinner, sleeping on fine linens, cool glass of water within reach. I might even add a few new ones now that the semester is over.
“Fall in love with a dog, and in many ways you enter a new orbit, a universe that features not just new colors but new rituals, new rules, a new way of experience attachment.” Caroline Knapp
Take baby steps, be gentle with yourself, listen to your body. It’s communicating all the time even when I choose to ignore the messages. We have this one incredible life and it is worth every effort to live it well. Bradley Whitford says infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love.
- Walk in the rain without an umbrella.
- Pick up some fabric snowballs on Amazon – way better than socks!
- Cuddle, it matters not if human, canine, fowl, or feline.