Mindful Monday: Learn to Listen to Your Body in 3 Easy Steps

Tylenol * Pepcid AC * Claritin * Imodium * NyQuil * Benadryl 

There are remedies for just about every daily discomfort we may experience and, in our society today, no one thinks twice about reaching for the quick fix. For the recovering addict, or anyone choosing sobriety, the quick fix can be a slippery slope. 

Intoxication, by nature, is about numbing the brain…altering our consciousness…shutting down or turning off the overly active, critical thinking process. Over time, the addict or anyone regularly using substances to anesthetize oneself, may lose touch with knowing how to self-soothe without a substance. Reaching for a quick fix, shutting down the overly active frontal lobes of your brain also creates a habit of ignoring sensations that are designed to alert us to physical and emotional needs. I get it – that is often the point of substance use – shut down to needs that are either not being met or are too uncomfortable to experience in the moment. 

Recovery, however, is contingent upon NOT reaching to numb, alter, or shut down our needs. Recovery is about learning to experience sensations, pleasant and unpleasant. Recovery is about learning how to meet unmet needs, and take care of physical and emotional pain – without a substance. 

Mindfulness is the first step in this process of changing habits from mindlessly reaching for a substance to mindfully listening to your body. Mindfulness is about paying attention, in the moment, with curiosity. Below are three easy steps to help get you started!

3 Easy Steps to begin Listening to Your Body

1.Check In: Start your day with a 5 minute check-in where you close your eyes, take a long, deep breath, and scan your body. Starting with your toes and moving up slowly, NOTICE sensations – warm or cold – pain or comfort – tingling, achy, heavy, light – tightness or relaxation. Repeat this process a couple times a day to really start listening to your body. 

In Mindfulness practices, there is nothing to DO but notice and name what you are experiencing. As you scan, simply move along your body and name what you notice.

2.Listen to What Your Body Needs: As you pay attention to the sensations you are experiencing, ask yourself, “what do I need right now?” Your body will know – start to trust the answers. If you have a headache, instead of reaching for the Tylenol, perhaps you need water or a massage to relieve tension in your neck and shoulder. If you feel tired, perhaps you need a nap or a walk around the block to wake you up instead of grabbing a Rock Star or Latte. Take a risk and try new methods of meeting your body’s needs.

3. Pay Attention: When you’ve tried something new to nurture your body, to take care of your needs, and/or relieve pain or discomfort, pay attention to any shifts in sensation. Do you feel better, worse or the same? If there is no shift, try something else – ask again, “what do I need right now?” (There is actually research that shows that it isn’t actually getting the right coping mechanism in place, but the willingness to try different coping strategies and having several options in place that can prevent relapse.)

The good news is that you can shift to practicing these steps at any time. You may have already reached for the Pepcid AC or Ibuprofen, but you can still stop and listen, pay attention to what your body needs and keep trying new things. Changing habits is a process and it is the consistency and mindful practice that leads to success.