Body Awareness Helps You Understand Your Emotions

March 22, 2018

As a society, we place a lot of importance on our thoughts and our rational selves. Our body and feelings are often put on the back burner. Luckily, these days people are more open to concepts like emotional intelligence. Nevertheless, many people still don’t practice body awareness on a day-to-day basis. 

What if our bodies were a direct reflection of our emotions? The body plays an important role in building emotions. Understanding that role helps us increase our body awareness and reduce emotional tension. 

How do emotions influence body awareness?

The body and emotions go hand in hand. When one speaks, the other answers. Many scientific studies show the influence of emotions on pain and the physical body. The two are in constant communication with one another. In fact, studies show that physical pain and emotional pain activate similar areas of the brain. 

For example, if you don’t manage anger or stress at work, you might end up with jaw tension or a muscle spasm. These are unexpressed emotions. They get stuck in your body, waiting for you to let them out. Since they can’t manifest themselves, they try to express themselves in some way. Often, that expression ends up being tension or physical discomfort.

woman with headache

In fact, your body is a map that helps you identify what you are feeling. You’ve probably noticed at some point that lump in your throat when you are keeping something from your partner. Or a stomachache before a test. These are body awareness signals so you express your emotions.

Observe your body – it has an emotional message for you

When we ignore our emotions, they turn into pain and physical suffering. What message is our body trying to send us? A headache, difficulty breathing, exhaustion, or a knot in your stomach. Do any of these symptoms seem familiar to you? Though we try to ignore them, the physical symptoms are still there. The more we ignore them, the more intense they become.

We often try to cover up our pain or sensations with pills. These provide temporary relief, but they don’t solve the problem. We are just putting a band-aid on an open wound. If we don’t express them properly, our emotions will still be there. Wouldn’t it be better if we listened to the emotional message that our bodies are communicating?

Imagine a guy that works 15 hours a day. He is so stressed that he wakes up every morning with muscle spasms in his neck. In spite of the pain, he takes a muscle relaxant and keeps working. His body is telling him to stop, lighten his load at work, and rest. He needs to look at his body awareness. Pay attention to your physical pain and you will see what your body needs. If you learn to manage your emotions, you will feel much better on a physical level as well.

“Take care of your body with steadfast fidelity. The soul must see through these eyes alone, and if they are dim, the whole world is clouded.”

-Johann Wolfgan Goethe-

Every emotion is related to physical sensations in the body

Let’s take a closer look at the four basic emotions and the physical sensations that they generate. I will also explain how to manage your emotions so they don’t turn into intense physical pain.

Fear

This emotion warns us of possible dangers. It also helps us anticipate and protect ourselves from threats. On a physical level, fear is expressed through stomach pain, body tension, rapid heartbeat, sweating, tightness in the chest, diarrhea, appetite changes, and insomnia (among others). These symptoms are not exclusive to fear, but they can accompany it. Sometimes this emotion limits us in a significant way.

woman with stomach ache

If you have any of these symptoms, check in with yourself. Is it fear, or some other emotion that you are feeling? To manage fear, it is best to deal with it as it comes instead of trying to avoid it. For example, if you have to make a presentation in public, practice breathing and relaxation techniques to reduce fear and promote your body awareness.

Anger

Anger motivates us to act. It helps us defend our rights when we feel that an injustice has been done. The most common physical symptoms of anger are: bodily tension, rapid breathing, tension in the jaw, a rise in body temperature, headaches, etc.

These physical sensations can indicate frustration. You should learn to proactively manage your anger. We often repress our anger, so learning to appropriately deal with it is important. For example, you are annoyed because your partner told you that you didn’t pick up your clothes. Instead of yelling or just not saying anything, wait until you are calm and explain how you feel.

Joy

Joy helps us create bonds with other people.  It allows us to socialize and share our happiness with others. The physical symptoms of joy are ones that we all recognize. Smiles, an expansion in the chest, laughter, a feeling of lightness, etc. There are people who have trouble feeling this emotion and they don’t know how to identify it.

Giving ourselves permission to enjoy the pleasures of life is healthy for our body and mind. If you are going through a tough time, you can still enjoy a day on the beach or a favorite movie.

Sadness

This emotion helps us face loss and grief. It draws us in and makes us reflect on the past and how things were. At a physical level, it expresses itself through tears, sobbing, tightness in the chest, holding our breath, loss of appetite, etc. We’ve all experienced these feelings at some point or another.

woman crying

If you don’t express your sadness, it can turn into a weight too heavy for the body to carry. If you don’t cry or share your pain after the death of a loved one, your sadness can lead to physical pain.

Your body is wise and knows what you need

If you manage your emotions in a healthy way, you will be able to hear and understand the messages your body sends. You will identify the emotions associated with your physical symptoms, and learn to manage them so they don’t turn into unbearable physical pain. Remember that your body can help you know yourself better if you learn to interpret its hidden messages. If you understand the messages, you can give your body what it needs (rest, attention, exercise, etc).

All you need to do is open your eyes to your physical side. If you do that, it will become an important part of your life. Your body is wise and it knows what you need. If you take care of your body you take care of your emotions as well. Remember that you will live with your body all your life. Paying more attention to it and taking better care of it is worth it. If you take the time, you will improve your emotional intelligence as well as your body awareness.