When it comes to optimizing your personal health and balancing your hormones, appetite, energy levels, and stamina, it’s all about paying attention so you can give your body exactly what it needs to thrive.
When we’re out of touch with how our body works, it can lead to stress and inflammation, overeating, lack of sleep, emotional conflict, compromised workouts (or even too much exercise, which can lead to overuse or injury!), and a general sense of “blah” that lasts throughout the day. That’s why it’s so important to give your body the care it deserves and to be vigilant in making sure it’s balanced and well each day.
If you feel as though you need a bit of help, don’t worry—you’re not alone! It takes a bit of practice to actively understand how you’re feeling each day, listening to your body and responding the best you can. Here are a few tips to boost attentiveness and stay aware of your body's rhythms.
5 Ways to Be More in Tune with Your Body
1. Really stretch post-workout.
Give your body more love after a workout. Not only will it prevent injury and decrease soreness, but also you’ll be more in touch with yourself and all its parts (literally). Foam roll, do some yoga poses—whatever you need to feel good and flexible. And if you wake up and feel way too tired to hit the gym (where you’re sore or worked out hard the day before—not where you simply don’t feel like throwing off the covers and putting on sneakers), then skip and rest. You need to listen to your body and give it a workout when it needs a push and rest when it needs to recover.
2. Get better sleep.
Without adequate sleep, you’ll throw your hormones off balance, and it’ll be hard to be in tune with your appetite and hunger cues, your mood, and your emotions. Not getting enough sleep can lead to irritability, stress, fatigue, and bad choices when eating, all because your body is thrown off course. Aim for 7-8 hours nightly to keep your body in a balanced state so you can be your most productive, happiest self.
A few ways to ensure more sleep is to invest in a sound machine to help you fall asleep sooner or a wake-up light alarm clock to wake you up in the morning to your natural circadian rhythm. This will make you feel fresher and less groggy in the morning and create a steady sleeping schedule. Use blackout curtains to keep the room dark and set the thermostat to a cool enough temperature to help you sleep soundly throughout the night. Around 67 to 71 degrees F is perfect!
If you often eat dessert in the hours before you go to bed, be aware that large amounts of sugar and refined grains (such as you might find in a cookie) could also negatively affect your sleep. Instead of that piece of chocolate, try a fun-size protein bar. It'll give you that gratifying few bites of sweetness at a mere fraction of the sugar (only 1-2 grams!), with the added bonus of soluble fiber to help seal the deal for a restful sleep.
3. Chart any new bodily occurrences.
Investigate and chart the minor cues your body is sending you. For instance, acne can signal different issues depending on where it is on your face or body.
If you notice a breakout along your chin, it’s due to hormonal fluctuations, so perhaps you’re approaching your period or are feeling more stressed than usual. If there are breakouts along your cheeks, you might be touching your face or holding your phone against them too often, so consider wireless buds for taking calls and be more vigilant about washing your hands before touching your face and changing pillowcases regularly. And acne along the lip line? (Ouch!) That’s likely due to dietary choices, so if you’ve been eating lots of chocolate and sweets, you might notice a pimple or two pop up!
What’s more, hair and nail problems often point historically to something that happened months ago—did you give up meat, or did you go through something extremely stressful? If you notice hair getting thin or nails becoming brittle, think of any major changes that may have happened a while back. And start charting right away if you do make a major change, such as going grain-free or becoming vegan. Jot down how your skin looks, how your mood is, whether your digestion is affected, and how well you sleep.
4. Pay attention to how you feel when you're eating.
Try not to eat too quickly at your desk during lunch or while marathoning Big Little Lies. Why? First off, it's likely you'll overeat, especially if you’re watching a few hours worth of television and want something to snack on just because. And secondly, you won’t be able to register fullness or see how you’re digesting the food and where you hunger levels are after eating a few bites.
Instead, focus on mindfulness when eating, where you can really take in the flavors and textures, then wait twenty minutes before going back for another serving. It takes about that time to feel full. Or if you can't seem to stop munching, you might try changing your brain's focus by going for a walk, taking a nice bath, or brushing your teeth.
5. Guzzle H2O.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated, which will help you make smarter dietary choices and think more clearly. When dehydrated, the body becomes fatigued and the mind can get cloudy and less mentally alert. Make sure to drink a glass every two hours or so (or more if you’re out in the heat or working out!) and notice the color of your pee—if it’s yellow, drink some water pronto! Drinking water helps alleviate bloating, cramps, acne, dry skin, and chapped lips, so consider it your best friend in keeping the body balanced. If you’re still bloated or experience cramps, it could be something else, like artificial sweetener usage or overtraining, so drinking plenty of water can help you pinpoint what’s really going on.
Isadora Baum is a freelance writer, certified health coach, and author of 5-Minute Energy. She can't resist a good sample, a margarita, a new HIIT class, or an easy laugh. She writes for various magazines, such as Men's Health, Women's Health, SELF, LIVESTRONG, POPSUGAR, Allure, Health, Cooking Light, and more. Learn more about her on her website: isadorabaum.com.