09/12/2013 11:08 am ET Updated Nov 12, 2013

Why It Is Smart and Savvy to Listen to Your Body

The other day, a friend of mine decided to do a juice cleanse. She had friends who had felt light, energetic and glowing from doing a cleanse. However, as soon as she started her three-day cleanse, she was feeling physically awful. She was sluggish, moody, nauseous and tired. When I asked her during the first day of the cleanse why she didn't just quit, she told me that she had committed to it and was going to stick to it no matter what.

Although her commitment was admirable, I questioned whether it was smart for her to listen to her mind and ignore what her body was saying. She ultimately ended up breaking the cleanse on day two, feeling even worse, both physically and mentally, as her body tried to recover, and coming to the realization that she should have listened to what her body was telling her from the beginning. She learned a great lesson, but she definitely took the path of most resistance in the course of her discovery. Her experience made me think about how so many of us are out-of-touch with the reactions taking place within, and how the result can be both physically and mentally draining. What would happen if we listened to our bodies even when our mind was telling us something different?

The first step is to develop awareness of your body. Be in tune with it. Notice when your eyes tear, when your heart races, when you feel achy or fatigued, and when you feel energized and alert. Notice how you treat your body, from how you breathe to whether you exercise to what food you eat or drinks you imbibe to the quantity and the quality of your sleep. You may find that these patterns and feelings are so habitual that you aren't even aware of them anymore. By paying attention again, you can build that awareness.

The second step is to listen to what your body is telling you. Trust that your body is giving you messages. Once you become aware of these physical signals, you can dig deeper to determine what your body is telling you. If your eyes tear up, there may be an underlying emotion to address. If your heart races, ask what is making you excited or nervous. If you feel stressed out and tired, recognize that you may be demanding too much of yourself. Although your mind will want to answer the question, try and really connect with your body and see if there's a different answer. It can be really exciting as you may find that new realizations appear in front of you that you couldn't see when you were stuck in your head and out of touch with your body.

The third step is to make a conscious choice. Once you've developed the awareness and made sense of what your body is telling you, it's time to make a decision. It's a moment to take all the facts you now know, and decide what your next step will be. It can be a trade-off -- maybe that big bonus at the end of the year is worth the stress of the next three months, or maybe the heartache you are feeling in a relationship is worth it for the time being while you work on improving the relationship. Or maybe you decide that you want to work on dealing with inevitable stress better so that you don't have to feel rundown. Or maybe you choose to break up with your boyfriend because your heart and body are telling you that it isn't working out. The important thing is to really understand yourself so that you can make the decision that's best for you in that moment.

We aren't invincible, and there is an ultimate lesson to be learned by listening to your body. What have you learned by paying attention to your body?



For more by Erika Nicole Finn, click here.

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