The Other Body Language

by wonderfullyrich on October 1, 2007

Yesterday I went for my Sunday run here in DC and even though I had not run in ten days, I still found that after my run, my right butt cheek was not happy with me. Now I should probably know better, but I’ve really been getting into running and I love being able to run 4 laps around NYC’s Central Park reservoir, never get passed, lap other people, and end the run emotionally ready to run more! I’m not sure how much you consider it in your daily routines, but your body has a multitude of ways that it talks to you just as my butt was talking to me. I was reading a study on how global warming is not understood by most people, because they don’t understand long-delay feedback loops [1] and I realize that our bodies are a feedback loop too, just not so long of a delay. The kicker is that because it is a feedback loop it means that even listening to your body means you can change your body too.

Of course the most obvious and direct feedback you get is pain, both of the sharp type and the dull ache type. Both indicate that something in your body has broken, failed, is in repair, or needs rest, but most of all it indicates that you should stop doing whatever it is that is causing the pain. Of course this seems obvious, but strangely enough it is not “common sense” obvious. Take my running for example. It is “common sense” for me to stop running and heal because leg/butt is in pain, but I want to run and could easily just take a pain reliever to cover the pain so I can keep running. In fact many of us do this when we get a headache or sprain an ankle. Often times though we forget to think about why or what caused the pain and fix the systemic issue. For me, I think I need to strengthen a few muscles and perhaps rest my body off it’s plateau (daily biking doesn’t help) to fix my feedback loop, but in the case of a headache it’s worth running a diagnostic to find out why you are having pain. Lack of water, caffeine related, sinus pressure, stress and tension, bad posture, temperature extremes (in and out of air conditioning), eye strain, etc. Perhaps it is as easy as drinking another liter of water per day, or perhaps you need to change the way you are sitting in your car.

I’d like to digress and mention that while it is good to listen to your pains, it is also extremely important to deal with pain in the short term and long term. Pain management is something some don’t do because they’ll just tough it out, but pain also impacts how you feel, how you think, your attention span, your personality, your sleep, your memory, etc. It’s the best of all indicators your body can give you, but pain should not be endured.

Now pain is at the top of the feedback food chain as it’s guaranteed to get your attention, but often if pain is in place a drastic action is required to fix the system or improve the feedback loop. Emotions are not as easy to understand, but just as diagnostic in listening to your body. If you are irritable and snapping at people, did you forget to eat lunch (low glucose), or perhaps you are addicted to caffeine or sugar, or maybe you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, or perhaps you just have a mild headache. The reverse is also true for emotions, say for instance when you are fighting a cold or the flu you are likely to be irritable and have a harder time being happy? It is not all negative either, have you noticed how happy you are after a strenuous physical activity, perhaps you still on a runners high or have you noticed how laughing makes you feel less tense, happier, and relieves stress?

Even more subtle in these diagnostics is how well you can think, meaning the processing power and capacity of your brain can be affected by all sorts of things. Feeding the brain to much or to little of the glucose it needs, putting to much or to little blood flow to it, screwing with the receptors of your neurons (by running, drinking caffeine) can have an effect on how rational you can be or how much energy you think you have.

Here’s a few parts of the feedback loop that struck me after I gave it a bit of thought.

  • Do you remember that soap can cause eczema? [2] Don’t forget food?
  • How much do you really understand about farting, the foods you eat can cause it, but so can stress. [3]
  • Or perhaps your gas is saying you are somewhat lactose intolerant?
  • Have you ever tried to map your energy level, moods, and food? There is a correlation [4]
  • Do you snore? Have you thought about checking your allergies?
  • Are you an insomniac? Are you getting enough exercise, what about stimulants (in medication or in food), or have you thought about stress?
  • What effect is that coffee or soda/pop really having on you? [5]
  • Does your left knee have trouble occasionally? Do you have a manual transmission car?
  • Do you get sick often? Have you thought about your diet (lots of sugar is a bad thing, but garlic is good). [6 ]
  • Have you ever checked your water to see what else you are getting into your body? (Lead, iron, copper, bacteria, etc?) Might it be causing memory lapses? (remote possibilities but diagnostic)
  • Have you ever noticed that if you feel depressed and walk into a social atmosphere, you feel better?
  • Ever tried to be rational when you are angry? Heart rate, adrenaline, and arterial constriction (aka the fight or flight response) might be hindering you. [7]
  • Do you tap your foot or have a nervous habit? Ever think it might be related to foods with stimulant? What about exercise or stress?
  • Does your wrist hurt regularly? Is it the typing or the doors knobs and locks you regularly use?
  • When you get food poisoning or a stomach bug, you can’t think and feel tired because you aren’t as able to break down the food in your gut so you might improve your intestinal flora.
  • Have you ever watch yourself on a sugar high and the crash?

The portrait I am trying to paint is that often times the simple things we write off as an annoyance or things which seem inexplicable are often due to positives or negatives in diet, exercise, habits, and your environment. Feedback loops are not easy to fully understand, but even the act ofacknowledging they exist and beginning to ask questions from a bio-feedback perspective can lead to insights about how you can lead a happier more healthy life.

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