By Jalene Case
Plugging into our bodies’ way of communicating is like using a decision-making power tool. It quickly drills to the core. Whether we’re struggling to make tiny, seemingly inconsequential choices or gigantic, clearly life-changing decisions, our bodies know the answer first.
It’s easy to rush through life without taking time to notice our physical sensations. In fact we often try to actively ignore our bodies by not listening to their plea for sleep, urge to move, or hunger for good food. Feel familiar?
That denial of our bodies’ voice also shows up in our decision-making process. For example, have you ever made a list of pros and cons to help you make a choice and, more often than not, ended up in analysis-paralysis? Did you feel that even though there were more pros on the list, you wanted to make the opposite choice? Interpreting what our bodies are trying to tell us is more than a gut-feeling-style approach.
Health expert Dr. Christiane Northrup sums it up well, “Our inner guidance comes to us through our feelings and body wisdom first — not through intellectual understanding.”
Here are some ways to practice connecting with your body’s wisdom as a tool in the decision-making process.
Feeling Yes and No
Think back to a time when you made a memorable decision. The instant you chose, did you feel something in your body, such as a cold clenching in your gut or a flood of warm relief in your chest? Paying attention to your body grounds you, brings you into the present, and is a pathway for listening to your inner wisdom.
Read through these steps and then close your eyes and go through the process:
- Ground your feet firmly on the floor and take a deep breath into your belly. Let the rest of the world drift away. Breathe naturally for a few breaths and feel your body’s sensations. Where do you feel tension, pain, tingles, or warmth? Simply notice. You don’t need to do anything right now. Relax. Bring all your energy to this moment.
- Bring a question into your mind and feel the answer in your body. For example, you may be deciding whether to accept a job.
- Imagine what your life would look and feel like if you said yes to the job. Include every detail you can imagine with your senses. Imagine what you’re wearing, the location of the job, the work you’ll be doing, the people you’ll be around, the scent of the place, the taste, the colors. Imagine yourself in the world you created by saying yes to this decision.
- Notice what you feel in your body. Where do you feel it? Is there tension? A warmth? A tingle? A glow? A knot? Does it feel like a yes or a no?
- Next, imagine saying no to the job and go through the same process. After feeling the yes and the no in your body, which choice feels right for you at this moment?
Flip to Choose
In a similar vein, a co-worker, Mindy, taught me a different twist on feeling your way to a decision. Think about the choice you’re facing and then flip a coin. Imagine that heads means yes and tails means no. Look at the result and immediately notice what you wish the coin had revealed. Therein lies your heart’s true desire for the answer.
“How do you feel?” can be a simple and yet, vexing question. It’s easy to respond with good, bad, mad, happy, sad, and even, “I don’t know.” Add to that our common business culture of not revealing feelings. Naming our emotions becomes tricky! However, connecting more specifically with how we’re feeling can help us see the nuances of a decision more clearly.
Dr. Brené Brown is in the process of researching emotional literacy. I imagine this will help us recognize our feelings more precisely by expanding the words we use to describe them. For example, describing how we feel as overwhelmed instead of simply tired or worried instead of mad. The words we use can often change the context of the situation and, as a result our actions.
Write to Feel
Bring a particular situation to mind. Start with the prompt of, “I feel…” and then write for five minutes without stopping. You might include the physical location of sensations in your body, and a description or metaphor that illustrates how it feels. Often the process of writing will bring clarity to the words swirling around in your mind and the feelings emanating from your body.
This is my favorite quick connection to my body’s voice. Go to a private place in which you’ll be comfortable closing your eyes for a minute.
- Close your eyes. Put your hand on your heart. Take a deep breath.
- Notice the feeling of your hand on your body, and your feet on the ground or your bottom on the seat.
- Bring a situation to mind, perhaps a pending decision. Internally ask yourself, “How am I feeling?” Immediately notice the physical sensations that come. People hear their body in different ways so simply notice what happens for you. There is no right or wrong way to listen to your body. How do you interpret what you hear?
Heeding our bodies’ wisdom takes practice, like any skill we want to improve. Choose one of the methods above (or create your own!) and practice listening to what your body has to share about your next decision. I would love to hear what works for you. Please send me a note at Jalene@JaleneCase.com.