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What does it mean to be embodied?
Simply put, embodiment is a way of being, where we are in tune with our bodily sensations.
For example, when we experience a stressful trigger, we drop down and feel exactly where this stress is being held in our body—it might be tightness in our belly, restriction in our throat, shallow breathing, or increased heart rate (most likely, it is a combination of a few of these).
Being aware of these sensations allows us to immediately counter their effect.
When we pay attention to the stressful state of our body, we naturally shift it by slowing down, deepening our breath, and sitting or standing taller. These actions may seem insignificant, but they are proven to be potent stress relief tools, triggering a relaxation state in our nervous system.
Unfortunately, embodiment is not something our society, or our employers, typically value. We live in a mind-centered world, and we are expected to utilize our intellect as our primary tool in decision-making.
Taking a moment to note how these decisions feel in our gut is not part of the common workplace agenda. We are encouraged to ignore how our body feels with work deadlines that demand eating lunch at our desk, staying indoors all day long, and remaining glued to a screen most of the day.
Despite this norm, each of us has the power to move through our day connected to how we feel. We can listen to our bodies and respond mindfully to what we need.
After a long stint at the computer, you may feel tired and head straight for an afternoon coffee. After checking in more closely, you find that what you really need is a glass of water, a few stretches at your desk, and a quick walk outside for some fresh air.
Staying embodied sets us up to respond to situations and stressful triggers rather than react.
When a stressful email comes our way, we can take a moment to note how it lands in our body, pay attention to that tension, and then take a deep breath. This gives us a couple of extra moments and creates space, so we can skillfully respond instead of firing off a reactionary reply we may regret.
Being connected to how we feel also fosters self-compassion. Giving ourselves time to check in with ourselves is a radical act of self-love and a much-needed antidote to the stresses of our day.
Self-compassion makes us stronger, more resilient, more productive, and fosters a deeper connection to ourselves and others.
Embodiment is simple in nature but takes a little effort to maintain consistently.
Try these three habit-forming tricks to lay the groundwork and watch embodiment float seamlessly into your day.
1. Conscious Breathing
Breath awareness is a powerful tool, dropping us into our bodies instantly. This exercise can be done laying in bed right when you wake up or seated in a comfortable position in your favorite chair.
Take your palms and place them flat on your belly with your fingertips pointing down toward your pubic bone. Touch the tips of your thumbs together at your navel and touch the tips of your pointer fingers down toward your pubic bone so you are forming a triangle with the shape of your hands.
Start to observe how you are breathing. Then begin to shift your attention to your belly and imagine you can direct your breath down into your thumbs and fingertips. Stay here for three to five minutes with your attention on low and slow belly breaths.
2. Mindful Touchpoints
Wherever you spend most of your day, consciously choose one or two “touchpoints” in your environment. These touchpoints are your cue to take a moment to become aware of your body. My touchpoint is the phone ringing at our clinic. Each time the phone rings, I take a deep breath and in a split second, consciously feel where my body is in space.
This mindful touchpoint happens dozens of times a day so it is a continual check-in. You can use the ping of your inbox or a walk through the doorway of your office—any moment that will cue you to shift your awareness from your mind thoughts to body sensations.
3. Evening Ritual
As our energy dwindles in the evening, we can often lose track of how we feel. We give in to that extra time on Netflix or over-snacking on foods we are trying to avoid. An evening self-care ritual brings us back to ourselves, reconnecting us to what our body truly needs.
Do whatever it is that connects you and brings you pleasure; jot some ideas down, so you can refer to your list when you need inspiration. It can be an Epsom salt bath, a foot massage with essential oils, or a relaxing guided imagery you have cued up on your phone. These simple rituals will improve your sleep, reconnect you with your source energy, and give you a felt sense of “filling your cup.”
Using these daily check-ins will help you return to yourself again and again.
It is a simple, but powerful habit that leads us to self-empowerment, love, resilience, and skillful action.