From a demanding job, to family obligations, to chores that always seem to eat up the weekend, it’s easy to zoom from activity to activity without checking in with yourself. How many times have you paused to take a breath to realize you’d been clenching your jaw or squeezing your shoulders? And we’ve all snapped at a loved one or stranger seemingly out of thin air, only to realize later that we’ve been so busy our patience ran out.  

In today’s always-on society, most of us aren’t in tune with our bodies and the signs it’s sending. Centuries ago, medicine treated the mind and body as a system, but this attitude changed in the west as doctors began treating the mind as a separate machine with many moving parts that worked independent from the body. But growing scientific evidence has found there are countless, nuanced connections between the mind and the body. (It’s important to note that many injuries and conditions—like a broken arm or diabetes—cannot be treated only through the mind, but there are ways to use the mind-body connection to supplement conventional modern medicine.)

Each day, your body picks up countless data points. In fact, the subconscious mind is constantly filtering through information, from external and internal sources, to raise to the conscious mind. And you can impact what information comes into your consciousness through exercises like meditation and mindfulness that root you in the body and deepen the connection between the body and mind. 

One study showed the most successful UK stock traders were also most aware of signals from their bodies, via the “gut feeling”, and could access additional, subtle information, gathered and processed by their subconscious mind. The successful stock traders accessed the extra information stored in the subconscious, via the “gut feeling” in their bodies, thus giving them better results than their less successful (and less aware of their body signals) counterparts. Everyone’s subconscious mind gathers and processes a great deal of information from our environment, but only those who train themselves to listen to their body signals (gut feeling), can access the additional information. 

By listening to your body, and learning its patterns, you can  better detect things like an increased heart rate, breathing rate, and discomfort, and in turn, make better decisions or address these challenges to have a more calm and centered approach to your life. 

You can start by simply stopping once a day for a breathing exercise or body scan. And if you’ve never done meditation before, don’t be intimidated. It’s easy to get started and the benefits are vast.