How to Listen to Your Body & Love it Back to Health

a woman with her hand on her neck looking upwards

Listening to the messages your body sends would be much easier if the noisiness of everyday living didn't get in the way. Finding true moments of quiet, in a world whirling with distractions, takes effort. As with sleepwalking, choices that stem from lack of awareness, may result in a feeling of “waking up” in situations, feeling powerless, not exactly realizing how you got there. Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach, Cheryl Telfer, calls listening to your body a “practice of observation over judgment.” By choosing to bring more stillness into your life, “it becomes easier to take note of the signals.”

How does listening to your body influence health & well-being?
Since “the mind-body is an interconnected system, something emotional will have physical and mental consequences,” says Telfer, adding that while imbalances are natural, it's up to you to make adjustments that restore a “state of equilibrium and growth.” When reaching out for clinical and professional support, awareness is incredibly helpful, says Telfer, as it helps “discern what works for you and what doesn’t.”

What kinds of signals might your body send?
Physical manifestations vary. They might include, “early symptoms: feeling bloated after eating, or waking up with a low mood,”says Telfer, who cautions about “eating whilst watching TV, in deep conversation, or scrolling on your phone,” as it may obscure internal signals by pulling focus away from how you feel.

Want to learn how to listen to your body?
Along with meditation, which Telfer says is a great way to start, she suggests “talking to yourself outside of your head more.” What does that mean exactly? “Whether that is speaking aloud or writing in a journal, it is important to get your thoughts out so you can release them,” Telfer explains, as doing so helps clarify core beliefs, and discern “your truth, or whether the thoughts stem from fear, trauma or from social discourse.”

Which meditations, or visualizations, strengthen your inner voice?
Before sleeping, Telfer advises visualizing a childhood place/experience “that made you feel loved, joyful, safe and hopeful.” Recreating and replaying the experience of your younger self, reflecting on “what made you feel all those positive emotions as a child, is a great way of clarifying what you need in order to feel secure and cared for.” At the same time, be mindful of current emotions as they rise to the surface, and be sure to let them flow freely.

healthy and raw fruits and vegetables

How do eating habits relate to listening to the body?
Telfer advocates mindful eating and stresses the importance of embodied eating. How does it work? It begins with bringing awareness to “your plate and to your physical and emotional feelings before, during and after your meal,” says Telfer. She goes on to suggest “minimizing distractions and conversations, and connecting to your breath. Continue by expressing gratitude for food and each meal, and tune into your senses.”

Additional ways that Telfer suggests to be mindful of your relationship with food include, keeping a food journal, tracking “what you are eating (not the macro and calories), but also the emotions and the physical feelings felt during and around eating. Doing this for a period of time, not forever, helps have something tangible to assess if any patterns are arising. Eventually, by becoming more of an embodied eater, you will naturally be able to recognize how your body is responding to certain foods.”

What are some mind/body factors that influence mood disorders?
According to Telfer, “Gut health is foundational when treating mood related disorders.” She adds that “a diet high in inflammatory foods like sugar, gluten, refined grains, drugs and alcohol is going to negatively impact digestion, immunity, hormone health and inflammation throughout the body, including the brain.” A healthier option is to focus on “whole foods like fiber-rich root veg, cruciferous veg, pulses etc. to strengthen the gut. Good fats rich in omega 3 fatty acids are also essential for brain health, as well as for regulating metabolism.”

It’s not just what you are eating, but also how, says Telfer. For instance, ice cold smoothies or lattes cause the gut to “use more vital energy trying to warm the food, and you can experience increased bloating as a result.”

Another thing to keep in mind, says Telfer, is that “optimizing the detox pathways in the body plays a huge role. Working on liver health, colon health, lymphatic pathways and releasing stuck emotions, is crucial.” Anger can be turned inwards and expressed through “eating in a harmful way,” says Telfer, suggesting alternative ways to channel emotions, such as, “screaming or releasing in a safe space like a journal, or to a person that listens well.”

a woman in a robe holding her face

How to listen to your body in a loving way…
Telfer says the inner work “comes down to learning how to parent yourself to make better choices, aligned to your intentions and purpose. Creating healthier ways to soothe yourself whilst feeling overwhelmed is part of this too.” Instead of binging, use and create calming rituals to help ground you. She advocates, “meditation, breath-work, singing bowls, reiki and emotional freedom technique [tapping] .” For a therapeutic twist on gratitude work, Telfer suggests “an anti-gratitude list,” to get clear about what upsets you, helping to “get real about what you can control and what you can’t. Next, you learn how to accept what you can’t control and how to change the things you can.”

What part does self-love play in wellness?
“When you nourish yourself from a place of insufficiency,” Telfer says it connects to your fight or flight response, causing this part of the autonomic nervous system to trigger hormones for instant-gratification and dealing with a threat. In turn, dopamine becomes overactive, and may cause addictive eating habits for short-term pleasure, like craving sweets. “Additionally cortisol, the stress hormone, helps provide the body with energy, by increasing glucose in the bloodstream and tissues. This is essential in moments of physical threat. In an emotional one (that drags out) it impacts the digestive system, growth hormones, and reproductive system,” says Telfer.

Ultimately, when you listen and understand what’s going on beneath your surface, it offers an opportunity for profound insights. Instead of looking for others to fulfill your needs, you deepen the bond with yourself. To build on this, Telfer suggests “Whatever you love receiving from your romantic partners, can also be given to yourself. If your love language is quality time, it’s important to cultivate that in your own life. Take yourself on a date. Maybe you love gifts? So plan ahead and consider what you would like to give yourself as a treat.” Enjoy life’s journey, in a loving and expansive way.

Interview with Cheryl Telfer @healwithcheryl