The Power is in the Awareness

In the process of learning and adopting health behaviors that prevent disease and optimize well-being, we may be bolstered by focusing on the capability and resilience of the miraculous collection of organ systems that is the human body. Becoming aware of, connecting with, and appreciating the way our body endlessly operates—breathing, metabolizing, heart beating, healing—can lead us to improved self-care.

There are a number of ways that we can practice physical awareness as a powerful contributor to health behavior management. A classic example might be taking a leisurely walk while noticing the stability and continuity of our stride, the gentle and perfect rhythm of our breath, and eventually the mood enhancing neurochemicals that bathe our cells. When we shift our focus to the physical act of walking, we begin a “brain training” activity of being present and noticing, that leads to experiencing how it feels, and can incline us towards appreciating those body sensations. We may notice that physical tension and emotional stress are reduced, making way for a moment of appreciating the vessel. As we record the reductions in tension and stress in our physical and emotional memory, they serve as a catalyst to recreate the activity again to enjoy similar positive outcomes. On a hard day, when problems abound and peace seems untenable, our body can recreate this refreshment even without our emotional strength, by just putting the body in motion.

Another example of connecting to and subsequently caring for our body, might come in the form of a body scan mindfulness meditation session. In this type of meditation activity, we draw our attention to parts of the body one at a time, focusing on experiencing those sensations, while leaving the rest of the body to melt away. This “brain training” activity increases neuroplasticity—the ability of the brain to modify and create new connections—and can eventually impact stress response patterns and self-care.  Although mindfulness meditation helps us relax and release muscles and tension, this type of “brain training” goes beyond a neuromuscular activity, as many people experience emotional release, feeling refreshed.  Thousands of research studies investigating mindfulness meditation report improvements in a range of variables including sleep quality, stress management, emotional well-being, resilience, spiritual well-being, health behavior management, emotional and mental health, and quality of life.

Our brain, body, and emotions work symbiotically by magnificent design, it is we who direct them apart rather than guide them together into one strong, powerful unit. Might we try and draw all of the beautiful aspects of ourselves together through attention and practice, and in so doing celebrate the whole.