Guiding yourself on your health journey can be such a confusing thing these days. For every study about some particular approach to diet or health, it seems, a contradictory one can be found. And in our internet age, they’re all just a click away. From one week to the next, new fads emerge, and each is held up as being the latest, greatest answer to all our ills””until the next one comes along.
Many of the clients who come to me feel overwhelmed by information and opinions, but lack the capacity to discriminate and sift through it all. They’re listening to everyone around them, yet they’re not listening to the most important source of information and wisdom about their health. I’m not talking about any particular website, book, doctor, or expert. I’m talking about their own bodies.
If you are like most of the people I know (including myself!), paying attention to your own body is not something you were taught as a kid. I spent most of my childhood with a stuffy nose. I was given allergy shots for eleven years that didn’t seem to do much of anything. It was only as an adult, through the awareness that developed in my healing journey, that I discovered that I was sensitive to dairy, a prime culprit for childhood congestion.
Most of us are largely illiterate when it comes to being able to read the feedback signals we are receiving all the time from our bodies, feedback that is innately guiding us towards greater vitality.
Sadly we simply haven’t learned the language. It can feel foreign to drop into our bodies and listen, feel, and ask for what we need. Or to notice how our body, heart, and being respond to the various choices we make each day – the foods we eat, the people we spend time with, the work we do, the products we use, the activities we engage in.
And what I’m speaking to here is by no means limited to your physical body. You are a whole being, and the feedback you are receiving, however it comes (as a physical symptom, a strong emotion, a shift in your state of being), is all interwoven as guidance for you.
Patience, My Friend
If you are yearning to actualize (and sustain!) changes in your health habits, I strongly encourage you to take your time in learning this new language of your body’s feedback (even though sometimes it can be uncomfortable).
Give yourself the gift of a relaxed time to simply observe yourself with curiosity – the patterns, the influences, the subtleties and nuances of what is happening, without any pressure to change anything.
This is key! In the kinds of cultural contexts that most of us find ourselves in these days, we can easily apply a sense of urgency and pressure to ourselves to jump into action to create the changes we seek. Yet that can set us up for the all too familiar boom and bust cycle, or quick fixes that don’t last.
In taking spacious time to become intimately aware of what’s happening for you, you’ll find that when you are ready to move into creating conscious change in behavior or thought or life circumstance, your choices are rooted in lots of data and context.
Therefore, you will be able to create a strategy that is uniquely suited for you, and your capacity to observe what happens with the change will empower you in ongoing guidance of yourself. Give yourself as much time as you need to simply pay attention and become deeply intimate with what is going on.
This is preventative health care at its best as it is about creating a foundation to guide yourself for the long haul.
When you cultivate this level of intimacy with yourself, you can begin to fine-tune the choices you are making in subtler and subtler ways. It’s not just about food and exercise. Every single choice you make throughout your days is influencing the state of your vitality. Wouldn’t you like to be making informed choices based on your own self-knowing?
Putting it Into Practice
Choose one aspect of your life to observe for the next two weeks. You might want to start with those areas where you feel like you struggle in relation to your self-care. Is it diet? Sleep? Having downtime? Exercise? Relationships? Work? Spend a few minutes at the end of each day reflecting on what you noticed (in a journal or with a loved one) about the patterns at play, what choices you made, what sensations and experiences you had in your physical body, thoughts, and emotions. How would you describe the feedback you received? Let go of judgment, or an urgency to fix anything, and simply observe.