You Want Mental Health? Get into the Body
Irish author James Joyce, once wrote “Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.” Well, Mr. Duffy is not alone as many of us walk around constantly in our heads with very little attention paid to the wonder of this body. This swirling of the mind often exacerbates issues of stress, anxiety, and depression. An increasing amount of people are now realizing that our heads are no longer disconnected from our bodies and that there is indeed a mind/body connection allowing for our body to play a key role in our mental health.
Just like we feel good when we’re loved, part of that includes loving our bodies. It can give us a tremendous mental boost if we are mindful of our bodies and recognizing not only the wonder that it functions the way it does, but also intentionally having gratitude for all the parts that work to facilitate that functionality.
For example, it took most of us a year or more to learn how to walk. How often do we take our legs and feet for granted? When paying attention to our legs all kinds of thoughts may come up, “my legs are too fat, too pale, too wrinkly, ahhh the cellulite.” In bring mindful attention to our bodies we’re trying to put aside our auto-pilot lenses of judgment and bring awareness to the actual part itself. So, if we’re walking, we’re noticing the sensations of walking.
What to do: See if you can notice how the knees or any joints in the bodies are often the unsung heroes allowing us to bend and move. Or even the hands, allowing us to pick up, grab, or write. Feel into the stomach, lungs, and heart, the autonomic pieces that allow for digestion, ventilation, and circulation without so much an acknowledgment or thank you most of the time.
Try and come down from the busy mind and bring mindfulness to this body, becoming aware of it and treating it well.
If you are already doing good things for it like exercise, eating healthy, getting a massage, or doing yoga, see if you can have the mindful awareness that you are loving your body in those moments, that you are really treating it well. Having this awareness makes the experience that much more meaningful and I believe supports your mental health and emotional well-being. It also reinforces the desire to do it more.
Resistance: Cultivating a nonjudgmental awareness toward our bodies can have enormous benefits, even if your mind reactively says “I don’t think so.” However, as I will always suggest, never take my word for it, trust your own experience, and try it for yourself.
For difficult parts: If you have any body parts that are in distress, see if you can hold that part in your awareness, thank it for all the work it has done, and let it know that you
As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Goldstein, E. (2009). You Want Mental Health? Get into the Body. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindfulness/2009/06/you-want-mental-health-get-into-the-body/