Responding appropriately to communication is an extremely important aspect of any relationship. If you consistently ignore someone that you are close with the relationship will be affected. The distance between you will grow, the person may stop sharing with you, and eventually intimate contact is lost.
There is one type of relationship that is especially easy to overlook. Many of us have neglected this important relationship without even realizing it. The distance this brings leaves us feeling disconnected. I am talking about the relationship with your body!
Awareness of one's body involves being in touch with your body, listening to it’s signals, and recognizing where it is in space. While these things may seem straightforward and simple there are many reasons why people are not in touch with their own body’s.
One of the main reasons for this disconnect is the busyness of life. Living in a fast paced society provides many distractions that keep us from paying attention to ourselves. Everyday our body sends us input and insight, but many times we ignore this communication.
Traumatic experiences may also cause an individual to become disconnected with their body. Dissociation is a protective mechanism that helps an individual get through an unbearable event or situation. While it can be useful as a short term coping mechanism, it is not helpful long term.
Befriending Your Body Again
Many people never think about being aware of their body, but when they are intentional about it they can begin to reestablish this important relationship. There are many things that can be done to create greater body awareness.
Developing greater body awareness is valuable for everyone. It’s important to recognize where you are in your awareness of your body and build off of that. Even small steps done consistently can make a big difference.
Technically speaking the three categories of body awareness that we can develop are interoception, proprioception, and spatial awareness. Let’s take a look at what those are and explore ways to grow in each of these areas.
The first type of awareness is interoception, which is the ability to feel what is going on in the body. Things like feeling hot, cold, or itchy would fall in this category. Feeling hunger, sore muscles, or a tightness in the chest would also be a part of interoception.
Listening to these signals can help us stay grounded and present in our body. These signals also give us important information for our safety and well-being. Ignoring these sensations can leave us out of touch with our body. Over time we may miss important information our body is giving us about both our physical and emotional wellbeing.
When we take time to notice our body’s reactions it can give us important clues into our emotional world. (For more about how our body can be a map of our emotions click here.) This can have a profound impact not only on our emotional health, but relationally as well.
Listening to cues from the body takes practice. Here are some examples of things to look for…
- Your breath: is it shallow or deep, fast or slow, easy or labored?
- Your muscles: are they tight, relaxed, or actively engaged in a balanced way? If there is tension, where is it held?
- Your reactions: when you enter a situation what happens in your body? (Does your body involuntarily tense when you are around certain people? Do you start breathing more easily around others/)
- Other sensory input: sweating, feeling faint, dry mouth, etc.
*If you would like to learn more about interoception check out the article “Embrace Interoception Through Body Awareness.”
The next type of body awareness is proprioception. It has to do with our perception of the position and movement of the body. Laura Inverarity, DO describes proprioception as a “constant feedback loop within your nervous system, telling your brain what position you are in and what forces are acting upon your body at any given point in time.”
Proprioception is what allows you to move your limbs without looking at them - the way you walk without looking at your feet, scratch your back without looking at your hand, or even type without looking at your fingers. We use proprioception all the time, but we rarely think about it.
People who struggle with proprioception may tend to have a lot of accidents and/or consider themselves clumsy. While we all can grow in our proprioception, it is especially helpful for these individuals. Research indicates that proprioception training can make a difference!
*If you’d like to work on developing your proprioception, check out the article “Overcoming Clumsiness - 3 Strategies to Improve Proprioception and Coordination.”
The last type of body awareness is spatial awareness. This is the awareness of your body's relationship to other objects in the environment and its ability to interact with them. We use spatial awareness everyday without thinking about it.
Spatial awareness is necessary to walk through a room full of furniture, drive down the street, find a location. It is even necessary for something as simple as picking up an object.
Spatial awareness is closely related to proprioception as both are necessary to function smoothly in your environment. Sometimes a person's clumsiness is because their spatial awareness is underdeveloped. There are some things that you can do to improve your spatial awareness.
*If you’d like to grow in the area of spatial awareness, check out the article “What’s Important About Spatial Awareness?”
Our bodies want to communicate with us, and they have valuable information to share! Listening to our bodies provides insight into so many areas of our lives - our health, our environment, our relationships, and our emotions. Ignoring these signals is risky business!
Are you keenly aware of what your body is telling you, or do you ignore it’s messages? How can you begin to honor this important relationship? Is there one thing you can do today to begin telling your body that you are ready to hear what it’s saying?