Listen to Your Body
Winnis Chiang

The body holds most of the information we need to function optimally, but we often ignore what it is saying and focus only on what our brains are telling us. Perhaps because we are not taught from a young age to focus on balancing internal information with external demands, we neglect the body's communications.

Therefore, we often resort to taking a stronger painkiller instead of investigating what is causing our pain. We use more caffeine or sugar to give us a lift when we feel tired, rather than hearing the message from our body that it needs a break or recognizing fatigue as an early symptom of burnout and paying attention to it. By observing children, we may better understand the importance of taking naps.

We fail to take into account the thousand little messages communicated to us by how we’re holding ourselves: the mouth that’s pinched and tight rather than relaxed. The fact that our shoulders are up around our ears, the knot of tension in our stomach as we promise to do something when closer consideration might tell us we are already over-extended.

These days we’re notorious for putting deadlines ahead of the protests of aching bones or inadequately nourished bellies. Too often, instead of asking our body what it wants, we go for the quick fill-up or the comfort food that may be the last thing we really need.

So how do you give your body an equal say in how you use it?

Start with the breath. Breathing consciously is a major part of body awareness. Thank God for every breath. Turn off thoughts and just let yourself experience the inflow and outflow of breath. Label them, “In. Out. In. Out.” Note how and where you are breathing. Not breathing properly is a clear sign that something important is going on.

Allow yourself quiet time. Sit for ten minutes just observing yourself, even (especially!) in the middle of a busy day. Meditate on Scripture and pray. Take a walk or a nap. Allow time to do nothing. Soak in a hot tub rather than taking a quick shower.

Get a massage. It’s not self-indulgence to be massaged. It wakes up the whole nervous system and helps you tune in.

Use your journal to dialogue with your body. Ask your body how it’s feeling, what it wants, and what’s going on. Give that sore wrist or stiff lower back a voice and let it tell you what its message is.

Eat when hungry, sleep when tired. Take a week and really pay attention to your body’s most basic needs. Do your real rhythms for eating and sleeping conform to the habits you’ve established? If they don’t, change them!

Do a body inventory to relax. Start with your toes and work upwards. Scan your body from the inside. Or try tensing each part slightly, then relaxing it to release residual tension.

Practice mindfulnessGet used to tuning in to your physical self, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.

Reflect on spiritual truthNobody likes to be sick, not even a common cold. Life is short. Being sick interrupts our plans. But isn't there more to life than just our physical wellness and existence?

God uses our families and churches to build us up. The Bible describes the church as the family of God and the body of Christ.

"Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ... Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many... As it is, there are many parts, but one body... If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)

If we need to take care of our physical body, isn’t it even more important to take care of the Body of Christ? Are you listening to your body?

I am so grateful to belong to a community filled with love and unity! The hurt caused by my family of origin made me long for a perfect family since I was a child. After believing in the Lord, I realized that God’s family can be different. Of course, local churches in various places will still have problems.  Only by everyone "living in Christ" can a church be transformed into "the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth." (1 Timothy 3:15)

How can we as individuals and as churches be shaped by God? "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Revelation 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22)

Author's content used under license, © Claire Communications

Winnis Chiang

P.S. Thank you all for your concern about my back pain. I have been diagnosed to have spinal compression fracture. Severe pain and spasms are because every piece of muscle is trying very hard to help. I'm now wearing a special back brace to protect and help my spine to heal. Please keep praying for pain management and rehab.

Winnis Chiang, founder of Parenting ABC and a retired LMFT, is passionate about helping Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking parents to get along with, enjoy, and positively influence their American-born children.