Why Feelings are Smarter than Thoughts & 3 Tips to Translate Them

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Have you ever had a feeling about something but couldn’t explain why you knew it was right? A gut instinct? A hunch?

And have you ever chosen not to listen to that gut instinct simply because you couldn’t give a logical explanation for it, but then regretted ignoring it later?

I know I have! Too many times have I looked back on a situation and thought, “Man, I knew I shouldn’t have done that.” But in the moment mentally convinced myself otherwise.

Why do we ignore our intuition?

I believe it’s because we’ve lost sight of recognising our feelings and sensations as highly intelligent rapid messages coming from our body and greater awareness, and instead emphasised thoughts and mind as the ultimate intelligence.

But really, what’s faster our thoughts or our feelings?

Imagine someone you’re very attracted to has just walked into the room and flashed a big smile and sexy wink at you. What happens first:
a) Your heart rate goes up, you blush, you feel little butterflies etc.
b) You think, ‘He/She is so hot/awesome/amazing/sexy, wow, what does that smile and wink mean? That made me feel good.’

I don’t need a scientific study to tell me that most of us will pick a) . We FEEL the stimulus from our environment first and then our thoughts catch up to categorise, analyse and compartmentalise the experience.

To be fair, the mind does this generally quite rapidly, but the truth is that our sensations are always the first responders to our experience, sending us information about how that environmental stimulus does and will effect us.

How about with our health?

If you’ve ever had any kind of illness what was the first thing that led you to know something wasn’t right? I’d wager quite a big bet that is was a feeling. Maybe simply a physical feeling like pain or fatigue, or sometimes a feeling that’s harder to pin point.

If you think about any of your health issues, how long did you feel that feeling before checking it out further? How often have you ignored it or written it off until it was unbearable to ignore?

And have you ever wished you’d explored that pain or feeling earlier because then it would have been easier to heal, or at least you would have healed sooner and not suffered as long?

I hear people tell me stories like this all the time. And I know that I have regretted ignoring the signs of my body calling out for help far too often. And when I’ve done that they never go quiet they just start yelling louder.

Our feelings are messages from the body.

Sensations and feelings are not arbitrary or mystical, they are simply the way our body communicates to us how environmental influences are impacting us.

The environmental influences could be something we eat or drink, breath, touch, listen to or even see. And bazaar enough, biologically our own thoughts are considered environmental influences.

The science of epigenetic research shows that even our genes respond to environmental stimuli, and the type of thoughts we continually think create a physiological response that actually impacts how genes express.

Not to mentions our state of mind also influence our nervous system, how we digest, breath, our heart rate and so much more.

Feelings are a language and we need to learn how to read them.

Our physical sensations or feelings are the language of the body giving us feedback about how the environment is influencing us as well as how our thoughts our influencing us, and we’d be wise to pay attention and start learning this language.

Doing breath body mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation are one of the greatest ways to become more fluent in the language of feelings and sensations.

Emotions are defined as “strong feelings deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.” So our emotions too are messages conveying the intelligence of the body that we can listen to and be guided by.

[infobox]3 Tips to Translate Your Feelings

1. Moving and scan your body every morning.

Approach each morning with movement and use it as a question to the self, checking in and seeing how you feel. Once you’ve noticed the dominant sensations arising simply ask, “What is this telling me about my health, life or mind set? What do I need today, right now to feel balanced?”

2. Use Feelings as a GPS Sat Nav System.

I like to think of my sensations in this way, as if they are constantly giving me directions. When I get a bad feeling I take it as a little warning sign saying, “Wrong direction! Wrong direction! Please proceed in the in the other direction.”

Then I simply ask myself, “What is the right direction?” I know it’s the right direction because when I imagine it or start going in that direction is feels good. That simple.

3. Voice Dialogue with Parts of Your Body. 

Voice dialogue is a technique that came from Dr. Hal and Dr. Sidra Stone, psychologists who developed a method of speaking to the different aspects of yourself. Traditionally it is used to speak to the different aspect of your psyche by giving each a voice, but you can also give a voice to various parts of your body.

I’ve work with people who’ve given a voice to their eyes, injured knee that wouldn’t heal, colon and immune system that was having an autoimmune response.

The basic idea is simple to have a conversation with this part of your self. You can do this in your head, while meditating or through journaling.

Begin by asking questions to it. For example, if you’re having digestive issues you could ask your stomach and intestines, “How are you feeling today? What makes you feel that way? What makes you feel good? What makes you feel bad? What would you like to tell me?

Simply allow the response to be natural and as if the stomach were speaking. For example, “I’m feeling a bit bloated today. I couldn’t really process all those almonds. I’d like to tell you just to relax, no need to rush around so much.” Just have a conversations as if it were a friend…after all, we want to befriend our bodies, care for them and love, not put demands on them as if they were lifeless machines. Every single cell in your body carries your soul and inner light, we are far from machine like![/infobox]

Trust your feelings and yourself!

Sadly, most of us weren’t taught these basic skills so we have a lot of doubt or numbness around our feelings and sensations.

Remember this is how we are designed to be and there is so much evolutionary and biological intelligence and validity to our feelings — even if we can’t logically explain them.

Just like learning any language it can be quite overwhelming at first and hard to understand, but the more you practice the easier it becomes until one day you realise you’re fluent and having a fantastic conversation without second guessing.

What are you’re favourite ways to understand the language of feelings and sensations?

Resources:

http://www.sci-news.com/othersciences/psychology/science-positive-psychology-gene-expression-humans-01305.html

http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/epigenetic-influences-and-disease-895

http://www.voicedialogueinternational.com/index-intro.htm

How body language can change the brain

bodylanguage

by Morgan Webert

We all know the way we think and feel effects our body language, and our body language effects how the world sees and judges us. But, does our body language in turn effect how we think and feel? Or even how we see and judge ourselves?

Harvard professor and sociologist Amy Cuddy has asked just this question and come to some impressive conclusions. Cuddy’s research shows that changing our posture for only two minutes can significantly change our hormone levels, brain chemistry, and as a result our behavior and the outcome of our lives.

Sound familiar? The two thousand year old Yoga Sutras suggest that in all postures we should strive for steadiness (sthira) as well as comfort or ease (sukham) and when we attain this perfect equilibrium in our postures there arises an unimpeded freedom from suffering (2.46-8).

Cuddy focused her question on the body language and physiology of power, analyzing levels of testosterone, statistically higher for confident people or in moments of power, as well as levels of cortisol, statistically lower for confident or low-stress people.

The study essentially asked half the sample group to hold “high power poses” with open chest and arms, tall spine, raised chin and taking up space, while the others held “low power poses” with crossed arms and legs, slouching shoulders and making the body small.

After holding the poses for only two minutes the group underwent a series of stressful tests. In each test she found that all the “high power posers” maintained increased levels of testosterone and decreased levels of cortisol, meaning they were more confident (sthira – steadiness) and less stressed (sukham – at ease), whereas the “low power posers” showed the exact opposite result.

So our postures do indeed change how we think, feel and act! This not doubt is one reason why asanas (Sanskrit for postures) play such a powerful role in our yoga practice. The ancient yogis may not have had access to saliva testing hormones as a means to understand the effects of postures, but what they did have was patients and dedication to observing how these various postures change our thoughts and feelings.

imagesInterestingly, the wisdom passed down to us from these sages does not categorize how each and every asana should or can make us feel. Rather we’ve been given a practice to learn patients and dedication to observation, and discover the effects of the postures for our selves.

Renowned yogi Donna Farhi refers to this aspect of the practice as “embodied awareness” and says that when we practice asanas we try to rediscover the origin of each movement and thus the original meaning of each gesture. She says we cannot do this by simply mimicking or mechanically reproducing the postures, but for the asanas to transform us we must enter the total feeling state of that form.

Cuddy also talked about transformation, saying there’s a lot more to the old adage “fake it ‘till you make it.” Relating her own story of brain injury, told she’d never finish college and then persisting through and acting the part until she became a leading professor at Harvard, she says with conviction that we cannot only fake it until we make it, more importantly we can fake it until we become it.

She emphasized that its not about pretending you’re something you’re not, but rather its about having the confidence to be who you are. In her study she also recorded the group undergoing job interviews and then showed these videos to a panel of judges blind to the hypothesis and even the premiss of the study.

Across the board each of the judges chose to higher individuals from the group who’d done the two minutes of high power poses and non of the ones who’d done the low power poses. The individuals were rated on qualifications, speech and other factors, but Cuddy says the high power posers were bringing their true selves, their presence, and that’s what the judges responded to.

This true self, referred to as our purusa in Sanskrit, is exactly what the Yoga Sutras lead us to Unknownuncover. The purusa is the part of us that is unchanging, in other words, steady and that sees clearly.

Each time we roll out our mat or sit on our meditation cushion and find steadiness and ease in these postures, we literally create a chemical and physiological change in our body, until over time we simple become steady and at ease, our purusa, true self shinning through.