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The power of listening to our bodies (but only sometimes)

"Chase the heat; chase what hurts." - Megan Harlan

Hi there!


It's fairly early as I'm writing this, drinking a cup of mushroom tea and listening to a nature sound video on Youtube (this one here), and my mind is buzzing with thoughts. Obviously, if you read the title of this post, I have arrived with some thoughts, to say the least.


As you might have remembered from last week's post, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be "lazy", "motivated", and "healthy". Since getting into marathon training (you can follow my new Instagram account here to learn more about my experience), I have had to incorporate healthy habits, eating more whole foods and protein, daily stretching, and various workout splits to balance my muscles. Yet, although wellness is important to me, I find myself feeling embarrassed when discussing my health and goals, keeping them to myself only. This makes sense, as the goal of running a marathon is mine, and mine alone. Yet, it seems as though health, fitness, and "strict" habits have become quite touchy topics. I have had people kindly tell me that I am being too mean to myself for embarking on this journey. And ever since I have been deeply curious as to what "being kind to ourselves" really means.


Last night, the idea for this hot-take post blossomed when I stayed home from swim practice due to not feeling completely well (girl problems, if you must know) and all day, I felt heavy and not myself. While I knew exercise would help me to feel refreshed, all I wanted to do was eat some cheese, drink some wine, and snuggle under a heated blanket. So, I did just that, battling the slight guilt that knocked on my mind. Despite the guilt, however, I was proud of myself, for listening to my body and getting a good night's rest.


But then I started thinking. What does it really mean to listen to our body?


I'm not listening to my body when I get up at 6 am to run. No, my body wants to stay in its cozy, warm bed.


I'm not listening to my body when I crank out another 100 words. No, my body wants to mindlessly watch YouTube instead.


All around us, we are told to listen to ourselves, be intuitive, "find what feels good". And, if you're anything like me and struggle to get out of your comfort zone, it's not difficult at all to "find what feels good."


It feels good to stay in bed.


It feels good to mindlessly watch YouTube for 3 hours.


It feels good to order another glass of wine. And then another.


It feels good to indulge in comfort food.


Now, I'm not saying that any of this is bad. No, not at all. To say that leads us down to toxic rabbit-holes of good vs. bad, swarming us with guilt when we lean toward the "bad".


Listening to our bodies is different for everyone.


For me, it might mean giving myself rest when I feel deflated and fatigued.


It might mean stopping a long run halfway because my hip is pinching and I don't want to cause further injury. Or I miss a run altogether and replace it with a long, intuitive stretch because my calves are killing me.


It might mean that I don't write for a day because I've already been writing for work and class and I have a pounding headache.


But is it really always a good thing? It seems to me that, at times, this comfortable, safe place, can be rather gray.


Listening to my body is what kept me stuck in old patterns. When I listened to my body by "treating myself", I grew stressed, anxious, and unhappy with who I was and how I felt. It's what allowed me to slip out of healthy habits, stop daily movement, and remain trapped in toxic relationships. (I'm always unsure of whether I should discuss this anymore but) it's what led me to gain 50 pounds.


My body didn't want to change. My body didn't want to stop eating a package of Oreos in one sitting (because I deserved it; I was just treating myself!). My body didn't want to get up and run four times a week, nor lift dumbells in my bedroom at 8pm because that was the only time I had. My body didn't want to learn how to set boundaries, learn how to stop spending so much money on candles. My body didn't want to be uncomfortable.


But, in my experience, being uncomfortable is when the magic truly happens. At least, that's when it truly happened for me. It is how I wrote books, how I have achieved goals I set out for myself, and how I plan on running a marathon. Chasing our fear, our discomfort, and exploring it rather than running from it, is where we will uncover ourselves. Uncover how strong we truly are.


Man, I sound like a motivational speech right now.


Yet I can't explain how ecstatic I am that one day, I stood up, decided I wanted out of my toxic cycle, and I began to move. Just move, enough until I was slightly uncomfortable.


Listening to our bodies is a beautiful thing. It teaches us how to ground down, how to take care of ourselves, learn where our limits are so that we can slow down, take a pause.


But if you're wanting to break away and implement healthy habits, well... your body might not like that. Not at first. Nowadays, I constantly crave movement, but that is something still incredibly new to me. Something I never thought would happen.


If you're wanting to write a novel, finish that passion project, achieve work milestones, or like me, run a marathon, it's going to take some mental battling. It won't be easy. But it'll be beautiful.


Don't go hurt yourself!


But also, don't be afraid to go after what you're wanting to achieve. (And if you are afraid, don't be afraid to ask "why?")


It is a strange, staggering world out there. Where is the line between being too mean to ourselves and simply working toward our core values and wants? What does it mean to "find what feels good"?


All I know is for me, it means to wake up when the world is still a milky darkness, stars still visible yet fading into the creeping new day. Strapping on my sneakers, bursting out the door, and racing around the parking lot like a maniac. It seems that, in those moments, chaotic and strange to some, I am fully and entirely myself, my thoughts floating like fluffy clouds past my dopamine-infused brain, and are at last, clear to me, and I am just running, and thinking, and feeling my lungs inflate and expand. And I feel good.


What does listening to your body mean to you?


Until next Tuesday,

Brittney

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