The most powerful and effective thing you can add to your wellness routine is to build your awareness. So often we are focused on the outside world and surviving in it that we often forget to check in with ourselves and take a moment to assess what's happening in our bodies.
If you want to live a balanced life (which should really be the goal for everyone) than you need to build your awareness, after all it's almost impossible to make changes if your brain isn't engaged in what it is doing. Building your awareness doesn't require a huge time commitment, in fact it's the opposite. The best way to build your awareness is little by little. Consistency is the most important aspect of retraining your brain.
Let's get science-y for a moment shall we?
The brain is the human body's control center. Every function that occurs within the human body can only do so with input or direction from the brain. Neural impulses begin in the brain and get sent to a specific area of the body and that impulse directs the action for that area. The opposite is also true, the body communicates to the brain to alert it to what’s happening in the world and the relation of your body in space and time (proprioception)!
The brain develops pathways of neural impulse and the more frequently those pathways are used the stronger they get. There’s that old saying “practice makes perfect” it’s actually an incorrect statement it should be “ perfect practice makes perfect” because what you do repeatedly is what your brain strengthens, so if you practice bad form and develop bad habits over and over again than all you are doing is strengthening and reinforcing those bad habits...quite the opposite of what you really want!
So why are we not a nation of hyper aware healthy individuals?
The answer is simple and sad. We don’t learn about our bodies from a young enough age. We are a world of retroactive reactionists. Rather than prevent injury, for some reason, we find it more acceptable to be in pain and seek treatment after the fact. If we were to teach our children from a young age about their bodies and about how to move them properly rather than develop poor habits and postures that lead to injury and pain, our children would grow into vibrant healthy adults that are not only attuned with their bodies and how to move them but with their emotions as well. I digress, that is another topic for a different post.
Back to awareness.
So how do we build our awareness?
A simple exercise is the orange dot.
The orange dot can be an orange sticker (or whatever kind of sticker you want to use!) that you put in key areas of your life. For instance on the back of your phone case, on the dashboard of your car, your desk at work, your front door, etc. Anywhere that you frequently pass by or look at. Now, every time that orange dot sticker comes into your field of vision, use it as a cue to check in with your body. This awareness check can be very general or very specific. If you are battling stress and know that your breathing patterns are dysfunctional, use it as a check in on your breathing. If posture is a concern for you, use the orange dot to assess your body mechanics and adjust them.
Breaking it down once more….
Step 1. Place your stickers
Step 2. Live your life, whenever you see your sticker take a 30 second pause, stop what you are doing and assess.
Assess: Am I holding my breath? How does my body feel? Are there areas of tension? Have I gotten up from my desk in the last hour? How is my posture?
Address: If you’re holding your breath or not breathing deeply, take a few deep breaths -in through the nose out through the mouth. If you realize you’ve spent 4 hours at your desk take 5 minutes and get up and walk around. If you are hunched over with your legs crossed, uncross your legs, engage your core, and sit up straight.
The goal is not to make these changes and force them to last you throughout the day. The goal is to increase the amount of times you are checking in with your body, make the adjustments, and return to your life. The more frequently you check in with your body(or emotions) the more neural connectivity occurs in your brain which strengthens those pathways and the more you actively work on this eventually it will become an involuntary action your brain has been trained to maintain. Thus, improving posture/breathing patterns/whatever it is is you want to work on....without spending hours out of your day to do so.