How to Practice Listening to Your Body: 5 ways to tune in to your inner wisdom

by Anna Hayek for Mad Hatter Wellness

Have you heard of the idea of a “full-body yes”? When making a decision, you ask if it feels like your whole body, including your head, heart and gut, is saying yes to the idea. If not, it may not be the right choice for you. It’s a way to mindfully check in with yourself.

Our bodies are really wise. They tell us when we need to rest, when we need to eat, when we need movement and when a situation might not be safe. And sometimes, messages our bodies send can be confusing. We need to practice body awareness by taking the time to listen to what our body is telling us.

A stomach ache can mean we are hungry, or maybe that we are nervous or feeling unsafe. Sometimes a funny feeling in our stomach might even be telling us we have a crush on someone. Tuning into the signals in our bodies and deciphering what they mean takes practice and awareness.

5 Ways to Practice Listening to Our Bodies:

  1. Take time to pause and check in with how your body feels.

You could do this every time you are paused at a stoplight or each time you get up in the morning and right before bed. Set a reminder on your phone or computer. Write yourself a note and put it on the bathroom mirror. Maybe start with noticing your hands or your feet on the floor as an entry point. Find time each day to notice how your body feels and reflect on how you are feeling. 

  1. Tune in with breathing.

Our breath tells us a lot about what is happening in our bodies. Are you breathing fast or slow? Deep or shallow? What does that tell you about your health, safety and wellbeing?

  1. Practice mindful movement.

Movement can be a wonderful way to check in and listen to your body. Practice yoga, tai chi, dance or any movement you enjoy that really focuses your attention on mindfully noticing how your body feels. What does the movement feel like in your body?

  1. Reflect on signals your body sends in a journal or on a calendar.

It can be really illuminating to record how your body feels throughout a week or month. When you are busier, what does your body tell you? How does it feel to be well-rested? If you are a person who menstruates, do you notice different things in your body at different times in your cycle? Are there times of the year that you need more rest or more movement?

  1. Try meditation. That can happen in many forms!

This doesn’t only mean meditation involving sitting with your eyes closed and breathing deeply, though that can be a wonderful practice to have! You can also try a walking/moving meditation, tuning into the feeling of your body moving through space – by foot or by wheelchair or however you move. Or make daily tasks meditative by really noticing them. How does the warm water feel when you wash the dishes? What happens when you tune in to the act of taking out the trash? Can you notice the seat beneath you as you drive and really take in the world around you? Making art, music, food – all of these things can be done with focused attention and noticing how you feel in your body.

Mad Hatter Wellness has resources to support you with body awareness. In the sexual health curriculum, Sexuality for All Abilities, and in the social emotional wellness curriculum for middle school, The Power of Me, we teach about how important it is to listen to the messages our bodies tell us. Open Conversations, a new curriculum for families, schools and organizations, also teaches kids of all abilities about bodies, boundaries, consent, safety and healthy relationships.

One of the most important key messages we talk about in our trainings and workshops is: “My body belongs to me.” We talk about how no one has the right to touch my body or do things to my body unless I say that it’s ok. We also acknowledge that sometimes boundaries are not respected and assault occurs, and that is not the victim’s fault and should be reported to a trusted adult. Consent is of the utmost importance. That means you get to listen to my body and decide what kind of touch you want, when and if you want it.

When we practice listening to our bodies and tuning into the wisdom that our bodies hold, we notice when something is an enthusiastic yes and giving consent can be more authentic. If something doesn’t feel right or safe in our bodies, we can say that we need space, for example, or that a certain kind of touch is a hard no. This is where we start to learn bodily autonomy. This is where we get to explore what feels good and learn how to set boundaries for healthy relationships, with ourselves and others.

Additional resources from Mad Hatter Wellness:

Boundaries Flip Books These flip books create sentences to discuss and think through healthy and unhealthy behaviors and touch. This activity helps people explore personal boundaries, which is part of listening to our bodies.

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