One of the most recognizable Olivia Newton-John’s song has this line in it:
Let’s get physical, physical,
I wanna get physical.
Let’s get into physical.Let me hear your body talk, your body talk.
Let me hear your body talk.
This week’s mindful journaling writing challenge focuses on health and wellness. More specifically, what is our body saying to us? How we listen to our own body may help us move toward a greater sense of well-being. This includes adequate sleep, proper exercise, and proper nutrition. Whether we are motivated and committed to weight loss and management, or, to maintain healthy weight. Believe it or not – listening to what our body has to say is actually part of developing a mindful lifestyle.
Our desire is to be comfortable, happy, and have a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, our American Society is really sick and unhealthy. In March of 2016, The Atlantic ran this article – Less Than 3 Percent of Americans Live a ‘Healthy Lifestyle:
Here’s another bummer of a statistic to toss on the pile: Less than 3 percent of Americans meet the basic qualifications for a “healthy lifestyle,” according to a new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
The study authors defined a “healthy lifestyle” as one that met four qualifications:
* Moderate or vigorous exercise for at least 150 minutes a week
* A diet score in the top 40 percent on the Healthy Eating Index
* A body fat percentage under 20 percent (for men) or 30 percent (for women)
* Not smoking
The researchers looked at data from a representative sample of 4,745 people who participated in the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In this survey, physical activity was measured with an accelerometer that participants wore for a week, and diet was scored based on a 24-hour food diary.
According to NCBI, the United States are unhealthy compared to peer countries and have shorter life spans due to poor health. And, is it any wonder when we look at the reason American society has an Obesity problem? Here are some contributing factors that the Public Health website shares:
Research published by the World Health Organization found that a rise in fast food sales correlated to a rise in body mass index, and Americans are notorious for their fast-food consumption ― such food makes up about 11% of the average American diet. Another study demonstrates the full effect added sugars from soda and energy drinks are wreaking havoc on American waistlines. So it is not just how much we eat, but what we eat.
Confusing Diet for Nutrition
The role of diet in the U.S. obesity epidemic is obviously major, but it’s also complex. Consumers are sent wildly mixed messages when it comes to what to eat and how much. One one hand, larger portions, processed packaged food, and drive-thru meals are branded as almost classically American — fast, cheap, filling and delicious. On the other hand, we spend over $20 billion annually on weight loss schemes, from diet books and pills all the way up to last-resort surgeries like lap-bands and liposuction. It’s no wonder we’re looking for fast food and fast weight loss options, we spend more time at work and less time in our homes and kitchens than our parents did. Sometimes you only have time to pack a leftover pizza slice and a slim-fast for lunch, irony be damned.
Inactivity is the new Normal
Lack of exercise is also a major culprit in the obesity epidemic. It’s been decades since most Americans worked in fields and on factory floors, a far greater majority of us are sitting throughout our workday. This means less exercise each day. According to one study, only 20% of today’s jobs require at least moderate physical activity, as opposed to 50% of jobs in 1960. Other research suggests Americans burn 120 to 140 fewer calories a day than they did 50 years ago. Add this to the higher amount of calories we are packing in, and we get a perfect recipe for weight gain.
So, if we were to listen to our bodies – what will it say? This is what the challenge is tasking us to explore.
How to Listen to Your Body
This requires some practice in mindfulness and meditation. Wendy Leeds, a psychotherapist and a cancer survivor, shares these insights at the Tiny Buddha blog:
- Respect your body: This comes from a place of accepting where you are at with your physical health and wellness. Treat your own body with love and respect. In fact, if you look at many religious belief systems (even Christianity) there are dietary commandments and teachings. Leeds recommends that we express gratitude for what our body is capable of doing throughout the day.
- Connect body and mind: Leeds recommends using a simple breathing technique that employs all senses. Listening and feeling are key to understanding what our body is saying to us.
- Present moment needs: Here, Leeds recommends we listen to find out what our bodies needs are in that moment. Is it stiff? relaxed? exhausted? thirsty? hungry? Resolve these needs by seeking out healthy snacks and keep hydrated.
- Long-term needs to stay healthy: Leeds observes that our bodies also want to share with us what it will take to get to a place of healthy living by informing us what we stand in need of. Getting back into the gym, eating healthier and more mindful, getting adequate and proper rest. Check in with a primary care physician and dental provider for routine check ups.
One other aspect that I want to add here is our spiritual aspect of living. While Wendy Leeds recommends we connect our mind and body, there is the important factor of unifying our spiritual self with our mind and body. Spiritual health and well-being simply means we are living a more:
… purposeful life, transcendence and actualization of different dimensions and capacities of human beings. Spiritual health creates a balance between physical, psychological and social aspects of human life.
When we are sick, unhealthy, and feeling less than adequate – we suffer depression, anxiety, and even spiritual deprivation (meaning, lack of meaning and purpose – feeling unfulfilled). Any casual research will show that there is a definitive link between unhealthy eating habits, sleep, and depression and anxiety.
What am I listening for?
As we start to listen to our body talk we are paying attention to red flag messages. WebMD has this slideshow on what those messages are and how to respond:
- Take a Rest Day – our bodies are designed to have adequate rest. Depending on our level of activity, this may be healthy or unhealthy. It is healthy to have a day to rest our bodies from work, from exercise, and to have some level of movement and leisure activity.
- Be mindful of age – we age and our bodies begin to slowly remind us of this. Staying connected with a primary doctor may help us alleviate some of the ailments that we may experience as we grow old
- Heart matters – be mindful and aware of your heart. If it causes serious concern – seek immediate medical attention
- Burned out – While we may enjoy doing certain things, our bodies may get burned out. We may feel emotionally drained. And, may experience spiritual fatigue. This correlates with the level of stress we are attempting to cope with and manage. How we manage stress in our lives may help us focus on maintaining overall health and wellness.
- Mood matters – pay attention to how your mood is. Interestingly enough, people may notice how our moods change prior to us even noticing it. How we deal with feeling depressed, anxious, and withdrawn determines how emotionally and mentally resilient we are. Here is where mindfulness helps us manage and cope with our emotions and moods.
- Changes in appetite – is a tell-tale sign that something is off. Best way to understand how this affects us is to write DESSERTS backwards. when we are STRESSED or emotionally drained, we tend to go to that which gives us comfort. May not be healthy binge eating ice cream. Emotional eating compromises our heath and wellness.
- Injured or sore – sometimes we over do things. Our bodies end up screaming out in pain. Taking our time to get back to a sense of normal functioning is a good reminder to not over extend and over exert ourselves. Mindful listening during a work out means we are paying attention to when our body is saying – okay that’s enough.
- Sleep hygiene – getting adequate rest is just as important as eating healthy and exercising. Without a proper night’s rest, we are moody, exhausted, and feeling like we are operating on an empty tank.
- Ongoing pain – seek medical attention when you start to notice that there is ongoing pain that lasts longer than it should.
By becoming aware of the red flag messages, we are better equipped to share with our doctor what is going on and how it is affecting our lives.
Listening to your Body Talk Writing Tips
- Be as specific as possible – To foster active listening and hearing what your body is saying – you want to focus on the specific details.
- Go for depth over breadth – Dive deep into the details about the particular ways for which you are empowered to hear what your body is telling you. Do not write in a superficial way. This requires some exploration rather than listing things
- Personalization – Focus more on what your own personal needs are and not what others may be able to do to in order to develop a healthier lifestyle. This will carry more weight and make a greater impact
- Subtract not Add – How will your life look differently when you begin to explore ways to increase your overall health and wellness? How will this impact your relationships? What does this do to your own sense of worth and freedom?
- Good gifts – Change our perception and focus on how our own sense of health and wellness is a gift for us to grow and mature.
- Savor surprises – What were some of the unexpected things that you are discovering? Does this surprise you? How does this contribute to your greater sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in life?
- Revise if you repeat – Zero in on different aspects when you find yourself writing about the same content regarding how you are taking care of your body and its needs.
The Writing Prompt
Are you ready? Here is the writing challenge for this week:
If my body had a voice it may whisper…..
Remember to follow the tips. Practice mindfulness and meditation to help clear the landscape of your mind. Do not merely just write about what you are grateful for, share the thoughts, emotions, and how your body responds.
When you have completed this challenge – comment and share your thoughts on this experience.