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Listen to Your Body, But Be Careful Interpreting What It's Saying

human body with glowing, colorful rays coming out of it and going into it.
Image by Midjourney

I was going to title this "Don't Listen to Your Body," but that wouldn't have gone over well. And it also wouldn't be accurate.

Your Body is Always Sending Signals to Your Brain

This is not news to you, I'm sure. Your sense organs—eyes, ears, nose, skin, as well as your interoception (the sensations in your gut or chest)—are constantly sending signals to your brain.

But they're just signals—you see a particular shape, you hear a specific sound, your fingers feel a certain texture—and then your brain, that wondrous prediction machine, makes its best guess about what's happening and what you should do next based on what that shape, sound, and texture were in the past.

Your Brain Interprets Your Body's Signals

If you don't have a practice for noticing your body's sensations and your brain's interpretations, you'll do what you've always done in any given situation. But there's an alternative.

At every waking moment, you have what we call a "feeling tone," which is like mood or affect.

It has two components: Valence (you feel pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral) and arousal level (so on a scale of 1-10, how strong is it). Every moment.

Your Feeling Tone Colors Your Perception

When that person who pushes all of your buttons walks into the room and your body goes into fight/flight/freeze/appease or whatever flavor of dysregulation it usually goes into around that person, that's your brain combining current signals with the past and giving you more of the past. That person doesn't need to be doing a darn thing to upset you.

Your feeling tone will be unpleasant, and maybe strongly so. And your perception of everything will be colored by that unpleasantness. You'll hear neutral news as bad, you'll make negative assumptions, and the person who has pushed your buttons in the past won't have a chance. You'll find a way to be annoyed by them.

What To Do

Body scans.

Body scans.

Body scans.

When you develop a practice of checking in on your feeling tone and noticing what's happening in your mind that travels with it, you'll go a long way toward changing maladaptive patterns of thinking and behaving.

Scanning the body regularly helps you get to know it so you notice when something is different as soon as that different arises (rather than later, after you've done something based on how you feel).

This doesn't come naturally or spontaneously. It only comes through practice. Practice with me!

Sign up for the Thursday Drop-ins: Adventures in Awareness (if you signed up already, you'll get reminders).

May ease find you.



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