6 Ways to Bring Your Body With You in Your Recovery
Recovery begins when you reach a point of decision. For some of us, it is when we are at the end of ourselves when our health demands it, or when we realize we are heading down a path of certain destruction.
Regardless of how we begin, we are in the process of reuniting ourselves.
Think about it: part of recovery is about reuniting our body with our mind and our emotions. Some people call this mind-body awareness. I like to think of it as awareness. We do this so that we can become more aware of:
- Our self-respect and dignity
- Subtle physical signs that we are being triggered
- The effects of traumas
- Physical resources we can use to aid us right now
Untreated trauma, substance use and mental illness can work to separate our bodies from our minds. We learn to cope and survive rather than to experience our lives. In survival mode, we are not feeling but surviving. We end up living our heads rather than being in touch with our bodies because it can feel too painful or too overwhelming to experience what we are feeling.
Often we may not even realize that we are over-using our mind and under-emphasizing our body, or our spirit. It is something we just do.
Body awareness is a way to practice healthy self-care. It is also a way to reclaim our physical selves that may have been lost from years of substance use, trauma or mental illness. Any work that we do to bring our bodies back beneath us needs to be done slowly and with support. Often this will be done with psychological or counselling support. I highly recommend getting support before engaging in a process of body-recovery.
Six ways to access our bodies in recovery:
1.Body scan – A body scan is just like it says: scanning your body. This can be done in any position where you are comfortable. Closing your eyes, and beginning at your toes you move from body part to body part. You are looking to become more aware of tension and any aches.
When doing body scans, I realized that I tend to hunch my shoulders up and this can result in shoulder tension. For a more thorough body scan process, follow this link.
2.Exercise – Exercise has been shown to improve a person’s mood and outlook, increasing brain growth (neurogenesis), and will provide a calming effect. If you use exercise while in recovery, you are become more aware of body needs and sensations. At the same time, you also have greater stamina and self-discipline. For more, see the book Spark (Dr. John Rately) and by clicking on this link.
3.Music meditation – You will need a quiet private space. Close your eyes, turn on your music (choose 2-3 songs), breathe normally and just let your mind follow the music. Music is like mind-body mediation without the chanting. This one is from my article on Music Therapy for The Good Men Project.
4.Walking – Walking can be a gentle way to exercise and especially if we walk without an ipod or mp3, it can be a great way to become more aware of our surroundings, exhiliaration, any discomfort we may be feeling, and any other sensations.
5.Breathing – Breathing is the foundation of life. Breath comes from the word we use for Spirit. Literally, breathing is engaging our spirit. Try closing your eyes, breathing for 2-3 minutes. Let you mind focus on taking deep and satisfying breaths.
I use this approach often. When I am anxious, my breathing becomes shallow and brief. I have found that becoming more conscious of my breaths, and taking longer and more satisfying breaths helps to calm my nerves and slow down the pace of my thoughts.
6.Self-compassion – Recovery is not just about stopping something (substance use, overwhelming depression or anxiety) but it is more about what fills the space. Self-compassion is one of the most difficult things to do, but is crucial to a successful recovery.
Often we realize that we may be kind towards others, but cruel towards ourselves. If others deserve kindness, then you and I also deserve kindness. Compassion for others is about providing support, meeting their needs and appropriately helping, self-compassion is the same thing, but directed towards ourselves. Self-compassion is not selfishness.
Self-compassion can be difficult for someone in recovery. This is an area that requires focus. For more on self-compassion, see Kristen Neff’s Ted Talk on Self-compassion and see the Trauma-Recovery website on Self-Compassion.
Recovery means a return to health: mind, body and spirit. My goal is to support you to return to health, through the best content that I can provide. I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain.
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Photo by Krists Luhaers