Are you aware of what your body is communicating with others before you even utter a word? I am not talking about body language as such, because body language assumes that it is something that we need to learn, like how you would learn French or Japanese. However, body communication is primal. We didn’t learn to droop our shoulders and hang our heads down when we feel despair, or inhale deeply and stand up tall when we feel pride.
Let me show you how this works from a scientific and medical point of view, our breathing is one of the functions of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS or involuntary nervous system). It is the part of the peripheral nervous system that functions largely below the level of consciousness, and controls many of our functions including, heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, salivation, perspiration, pupillary dilation and sexual arousal.
Breathing is an exceptional function of the body in that it is ordinarily regulated automatically by the Autonomic Nervous System, but can be consciously modified. We can’t control any of the others deliberately, but you can choose to slow your breathing down or even hold your breath for some time if you so chose to, for example like how we do in conscious breathing practices or pranayama.
Because of this, breathing can act, as a doorway between the conscious and unconscious aspects of the self, creating an accessible bridge. Our body, thoughts and emotions affect our breathing and hence affect some of the other functions of the ANS. Haven’t you noticed when people get angry or scared, they start breathing faster and their heart rate increases?
Similarly, by using our conscious mind’s executive powers also known as the higher centres of the brain or ‘choice,’ we can choose particular postures and breathing styles to influence our emotions and actions.
In ontological coaching, our coherence is regarded as what determines our behaviour, the internal reality we live in, which mainly refers to the relationship we have with ourselves.
Our coherence is seen as three interrelated spheres of human existence. These three spheres are, body (physiology or body posture), emotions and language.
While we are working towards our goals, we also have emotions and feelings that sometimes get in the way of us moving forward. Even with all the personal development I have been involved in myself for more almost 2 decades, I too have my moments when I feel that familiar lump in my throat and want to cry or even scream sometimes.
So how do you get through these moods and get on with what you know you want to do and feel you need to do in order to feel happy and bring you closer to your goals and desires?
Let’s try a quick exercise:
- Think about a challenge or issue you are currently experiencing.
- Think of it intently
- Slouch forward, bending your body down, lowering your head
- Clench your fists and toes, clench your jaw and burrow your forehead in a frown
- Bring your shoulders inwards, closing your chest in
How do you feel? Stressed? Worse? Well think about what this body position is doing to your insides, to your blood flow and oxygen flow? Constricting it right? Well just consider how this would in turn affect your feelings and hence the words you may think and speak?
Now, let’s shake that out and exhale with your whole body three times audibly.
Stretch your body out, lie back in your seat, look up at the ceiling as if you are looking up at the sky and lying on a deck chair on your favourite Goa beach. Open up your chest, relax your jaw and your face, unclench your toes and fingers and exhale, smiling.
How do you feel now?
Another quick fix is to stand up, shoulders back, chest out, head up high, tall, breathe into your lower belly and smile a big smile.
This is exactly what I do, when I notice myself falling into one of my hormonal moods. Deliberately change your body position, focus on your goal and let the sweetness of achieving them overpower the feelings of inadequacy that pull you back, the limiting beliefs that have a grip on you, or the negative thoughts that try to hold you down.
Thought is an electrical energy and it takes one second to change. Emotion, which is directly affected by our thoughts is chemical and can take 10-15 minutes to change. Emotions are brought about by thoughts and will create physiological changes in our bodies. Worry and fear will cause our heart rate and breathing to quicken and we can go into panic causing us to feel even worse. It is a vicious cycle. Whereas changing your body position can be done in an instant and is probably the easiest bridge you have to improving the way you feel.
Did You Know?
Neuroscience research suggests that negative thoughts can over-stimulate the Amygdala, (the small almond-shape set of neurons located deep in the brain’s medial temporal lobe which can be responsible for more fear, stress and panic) The double whammy is that when the amygdala is stimulated by perceived fear, it shuts down our physical ability to release serotonin in our brains(which is a contributor to us being able to think positively and creatively). When we put ourselves in this state, there is no getting out of the self-dug rut. In this state, we block positive memories, fantasies and ‘hope.’
This is how we allow our feelings to determine our language and they affect how we holdour bodies.
The body has quick access to helping to change the way you feel and hence your language and guess what? In our modern day, language is action.
Not only does it change the way you feel and speak but it also changes the way people observe or perceive you, it is said that communication is made up of:
Words 7 %
Tone 38 %
Body 55 %
Notice how often you are actually affecting your own environment and the behaviour of the people around you just from the way you are holding your body.
The body learns by doing though, not by thinking. Consider how you learnt to ride a cycle or drive a car, you can read a thousand-page manual on riding or driving, but until you practisewith your body, you will never learn. These body positions I shared with you need repetition and practise. The keyword here is practise which means to do and do again and again.
Can you see just how useful this can be in your work and personal life? Try having a conversation with a loved one in the more relaxed body position and see how different the results and reactions are.
By the way, repeating a practice at least a few hundred times is needed before it just becomes an optional pathway. However for it to become a new habit or default, it needs to be repeated several thousand times. This put things in perspective for me, it meant that even if I practised a desired body position once a day, a year would not be enough, this hit me like a ton of bricks and encouraged me to practise several times every day.
Imagine you are in a room and one of your next-door neighbours has a radio playing all day and night on loud. As much as you don’t want to listen to it, you can’t really shut it out. This is like the voice in your head repeating your negative and archaic beliefs telling you that you are not good enough or that things will never change. What you can do though, is play your own music, your playlist on your iPod or turn on your TV in order to drown out the noise.
We all have the ability to tune in to listening to something if we really want to, despite noise. When we focus on one, our attention diverts and we can become oblivious to other sounds. Our negative or disempowering thoughts are similar, it is hard to get rid of or switch off the old track, it is deeply rooted in our psyches and continues to play in our minds even when we consciously try to ignore them, what we can do is to run a new script, play a new song, the one that helps to move us forward, the one that says, “I am good enough”, “I can and I will”.
I have spoken to you from the battleground, I have been there, and I am not preaching from what I have learnt and studied, or from my experience as a life coach, I am speaking to you from my life experience.
There’s no such thing as a magic day when you have all the time, money, resources and energy to pursue your goals, dreams and live a purposeful and meaningful life. The time is always now. If you couldn’t do it yesterday, the next best time is now.
That familiar voice in your head that always tells you to wait and to postpone starting to live your dreams is the voice of fears, like the noisy neighbour’s radio and this is what will keep you where you are. How much longer are you going to wait? How much more time do you have? How far has that sceptical voice served you?
If not now, when?