How can we remain mindful when we are trying to live full lives that keep us constantly busy? Finding the balance between the two can be challenging. When we’re too busy, we sometimes forget about the importance of embracing and appreciating the moment. We can become overwhelmed by the day-to-day grind and begin to slowly drift from social and fun activities. Instead of being present in the moment and mindful about our daily lives, we might end up ruminating or simply procrastinating.
When this happens, we need to get out of our heads and get into our bodies. In other words, we need to adopt a more holistic approach to life and reconnect our body to our mind.
How? There are many established practices that help us connect with our bodies. In this article, we’ll talk more about the embodied consciousness school of thought and share some tips on how to apply it to your personal life so you can get out of your head and into your body when you need to.
What Does the Embodiment of Consciousness Mean?
During the mid 20th century, Jean Piaget––one of the most important developmental psychologists of all time––discovered that children develop logic by first interacting with objects and people in their environment and then internalizing those interactions and repeating them mentally. The process of internalization here refers to our ability to take in external influences (events, ideas, beliefs, stimuli), absorb them, and use them to build the abstract wonder that is our character. This is how we learn and mature, and how our experiences shape us as individuals.
Simply put, there can be no cognition––our ability to develop consciousness––without bodily experience, according to Piaget. However, as adult humans, it seems like sometimes we get lost in that same mind that gives us this divine ability to be conscious. We become set in our ways and, once we’ve established our own sense of self, it can be challenging for us to let go of it, step back, and re-learn new behaviors. So, how can we step out of this cycle?
Our answer is simple: backtrack the process. We can enhance the connection between the body and the mind by reconnecting with the physical world and internalizing our physical experiences once more—or as much as we need to.
You can become more present, engaged, and grounded in the now by strengthening the connection between your senses and your mind. This will transform you from an observer into an active participant in life.
How to Embody the Mind
Body awareness can bring so many benefits to our lives. Improved and/or well-maintained personal mental health is certainly one of the main, direct benefits, but they actually extend much further. Embodied living improves our quality of life and our performance in all spheres of life since it helps us find more meaning in everything we do.
If we are being present in the moment, the people around us find it easier to connect to us, and, that way, we tend to build more intimate and meaningful relationships. Embodied living also allows us to enjoy our hobbies more and even perform better at work without being cognitively exhausted and burnt out.
What actions do we need to take to start comfortably nesting into our bodies again? Here are some techniques to help you get in closer contact with your body and regain consciousness in your everyday life.
Talk to Your Body
When we get caught up in our heads and neglect our bodies, we are treating ourselves like machines. If we don’t focus and use our senses, they get numb. If we don’t pay attention to how our body feels, we stop feeling ourselves.
Consider the following questions:
- What does my body feel like now?
- Can I feel the clothes that I’m wearing? The chair I’m sitting on? The solidity of the ground I’m standing on? What does this feel like?
- What are the elements of my body that I can’t feel? What would it be like if I could?
- Is there anything I am feeling in my body right now that I don’t want to be feeling?
Being curious and asking yourself questions about your body may be more important than answering those questions and finding solutions or fixing anything. These questions ground the mind in the body. In the long term, this is a great strategy for embodying the mind.
However, for instant grounding, you can also apply some of the following techniques:
- Savor a scent;
- Move the body by stretching, jumping, dancing, or exercising;
- Take an ice cube in your hand and notice how you feel about holding and melting it;
- Go for a walk;
- Take deep breaths;
- Touch different objects, textures;
- Put your hands in cold water slowly by inserting the fingertips first. Think about the process as you dip the whole palm;
- Recite poetry from your memory;
- Come up with a phrase to anchor you;
- Focus on a math problem that can be solved ‘in the head’;
- Spend time with your pet;
- Visualize your favorite place;
- Make a grounding playlist and play it every time you feel disconnected from your body.
Research the Connection Between the Mind and the Body
From a holistic point of view, physiological discomfort affects our psychological well-being and vice versa.
If some of our basic needs are not satisfied, our energy levels will drop, and the state of our endocrine and neural systems changes. This makes it challenging to focus on fulfilling our more complex needs until we take care of our health and well-being.
Therefore, let’s start reviewing how we can fulfill our basic needs:
- How are you sleeping? How many hours per night? What time do you go to bed?
- What is your nutrition like? Is your diet balanced? Are you properly hydrating? Do you get enough of the necessary nutrients?
- Do you spend enough time outside?
- Do you exercise and move your body? How often?
Our energy and concentration levels drop if we aren’t responding to our needs. Simply paying attention to our basic needs can improve the connection between our minds and our bodies significantly.
The following prompts help you get a perspective on your current lifestyle:
- Are there any sources of stress in your life? What are they?
- How do you cope with stressful situations?
- Do you connect with other people?
- Do you live up to your values?
- Are you self-sabotaging yourself and your happiness?
- Do you have self-limiting beliefs? How do they hold you back?
The answers to these questions can give you an overview of the areas in your life you might want to focus on. Being aware of what stresses us out can help us create better coping mechanisms or reinterpret stressful situations in a different way.
For example, if there’s a challenging task at work that makes us feel stressed out, we can change the way we approach it or we may use this newfound awareness of our stress-trigger to change the way we think about it and react to it. An example would be to adopt a growth mindset and start viewing problems as learning opportunities and as opportunities for growth, rather than as obstacles and never-ending misfortunes.
Apply Relaxing and Tension Release Activities and Techniques
We can often feel the psychological and emotional tension in our bodies. Anxiety can keep our shoulders stiff, which leads to neck and back pain. Sadness and tiredness can appear in the body in the form of chest pain, back pain, and a feeling of weakness or fatigue.
Our bodies can impact our emotional state as well. However, we can release a lot of this tension from our minds by simply engaging in certain physical activities. Physical activities increase the level of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin in our brains, and this chemical shift can also make a significant improvement on our mindset and emotional health.
Here are some of the best activities to de-stress and release tension:
- Yoga. Yoga combines body movement with meditation and helps to achieve a special way of thinking that can help us feel healthier and more connected with ourselves.
- Running. Running can be quite meditative. Many long-distance runners report experiencing runner’s high––a euphoric state of relaxation after an intense workout.
- Martial arts. This type of sport requires a great level of focus and synchronization between the body and the mind. There are many different types of martial arts you can take up, like aikido, tai chi, judo, karate, or taekwondo.
- Breathing exercises. Breathing exercises help us enhance our lung, heart, and chest capacities, maintain healthy levels of blood oxygen, and remain calm and connected to ourselves.
- Laughing. An honest laugh tends to return us to reality and set us free from tension. Spend more time with people who make you laugh. Watch or read something you find funny at least two or three times every week.
- More time with loved ones. Spending time with loved ones is crucial for releasing tension. The feeling of belonging and connection gives us a feeling of purpose in life and helps us overcome adversities. You don’t necessarily have to talk about your problems and tackle emotional issues when spending time with a loved one. Simply enjoying each other's presence is enough to feel more connected with ourselves.
But how do you know whether you’re doing all these things right? You may notice that you are smiling more for one thing. You may also notice that your posture is straighter, and your walk is becoming more relaxed. Your communication with others can feel deeper and more peaceful. If you recognize some of these cues, you’re definitely headed in the right direction.
One of the most powerful practices designed to reconnect the mind and the body is the practice of mindfulness. Most people are familiar with mindfulness meditation, but there is so much more to this practice than a few exercises. Mindfulness is an approach to life. It’s about being conscious and present when we eat, exercise, or spend time by ourselves.
We are not all equally comfortable with touch. However, if this is something you want to work on, spend some time analyzing how you view physical contact and whether you want to challenge yourself more in this area.
For example, organize a massage session with someone you are close with, and relax each others’ shoulders, arms, and feet. It can be your best friend or your partner. Or, perhaps you’d be more comfortable visiting a professional masseur.
You can also learn how to release tension from your shoulders, how to massage pressure points on the body, or how to massage your hand to release tension. Additionally, you can try using different types of massage oils for relaxation.
Massage should be coupled with a mindfulness practice and full conscious engagement. Through this, you can easily retrieve the mind-body connection you might feel you’re missing.
Spend More Time in Nature
Mother Nature gives us life and it can be a great therapist as well. We can quite literally ground ourselves by sitting or walking barefoot on the grass, spending time in open air, taking care of our gardens, or swimming in a lake.
If you live in an apartment, you can enrich it with plants––taking care of them can be surprisingly rewarding and soothing.
Nature is cyclical. Observing the changes between day and night, the seasons, or the landscape around you can also feel calming and rewarding.
Limit Your Technology Usage
It can be challenging to maintain mind-body contact in the digital era, especially when our phones, laptops and other gadgets have become gates to the abstract, digital environment. Spending too much time in the virtual zone can affect our relationship with our bodies negatively.
Limiting our technology usage, especially when we are physically present with other people, or when we are working, studying, or preparing for sleep can help us regain a sense of being in the moment.
Accept that Life Is Finite and We Are Limited
One of the greatest challenges of human cognition is to process the idea that one day we will no longer be and that our reach in life is very limited. And we are constantly being reminded of this.
The topic of our personal limitations and our limitations as humans can be quite challenging to deal with sometimes, but learning how to accept it and enjoy the life that is given to us is often liberating. We cannot control everything, but what definitely is within our power is to accept that life is like that—infinite and fleeting at the same time, unpredictable, and full of surprises. And as long as we are in harmony with our mind and body, we decide how to live it.