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Body intelligence: What It Is And How It Affects Our Lives

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Startup Jedi

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Most likely, you are familiar with or have at least heard of emotional intelligence — the ability to recognize and control your own emotions. Most employers consider social intelligence —  the ability to establish connections with other people, flexibility —  to be one of the key characteristics of a potential employee. What about body intelligence? If we all have a body, then we need to be able to listen to it. In today’s article based on Founders Club’s insight we’ll discuss what body intelligence is, why it’s not a new concept at all, and how to learn to take care of your body.

 What is body intelligence

The idea of ​​multiple intelligences was put forward by psychologist Howard Gardner in 1983. Then he, among other things, spoke about the spatial and kinesthetic intelligence developed in athletes.

Body intelligence (BQ) refers to the degree to which a person is aware of their body, what they know about themselves and what they do for their good. Although body intelligence has only been a topic of discussions in the last two decades, it is not a new concept — in fact, it has always been central to the work of health, wellness, and a bit later fitness professionals. So if you have apps like plank for 30 days, pedometer, or meditation installed — congratulations, you are taking the first steps in developing your body intelligence, albeit perhaps unconsciously.

 Three pillars of body intelligence

Jim Gavin, a professor at Concordia University (Canada), has devoted a number of studies and articles to bodily intelligence. According to his approach, the development of body intelligence is based on three key things: awareness, knowledge and interaction.

Body awareness is about tuning in to your body and the signals it sends. The more aware you are of your body, the better you control it. All of us — some occasionally, others constantly — experience certain physical sensations that we ignore, hoping they will disappear. Being aware of how certain foods, exercise complexes, internal and external stresses affect your body will allow you to find out what can help improve your health and increase vitality. And putting this knowledge into practice will help improve both your bodily and mental health and the quality of life in general.

As with classical mindfulness work, in body awareness work it is important to listen to your sensations — in this case, your body — throughout the day. The most effective tools for doing this are journaling, meditation, cause-and-effect reflection, and the practice of “stop, listen and feel”.

Cause-and-effect thinking involves asking yourself throughout the day about how you feel now, whether you feel good or bad at the moment, and why.

Theorists of bodily intelligence distinguish between gross and subtle bodily sensations. Rough sensations are muscle soreness after strength training, while subtle include, for example, sitting uncomfortably.

Sensitivity to kinesthetic cues allows you to correct your posture before you start the bench press. At the same time, the harsh, rough approach of “you can do it”, “do it differently...” weakens the awareness of the body, prioritizing results over feelings. Developed bodily intelligence allows you not to refuse to achieve a result, but prioritizes satisfaction from the achieved sensations.

Knowledge of the body is how literate you are in matters of health, what you know about the accepted standards and approaches to the healthy functioning of the body: how the internal organs work, what can harm your body, what food is better to opt for, why physical activity is important ...

At the same time, having general information is not enough, you also need to know your health indicators, such as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, vitamin D and B12 levels. It is also important to know exactly what your body needs to feel healthy.

Interaction with the body are those actions that we take to keep our body healthy. Even with a high level of body awareness, understanding of its needs and signals, involvement in interaction with the body does not come easily. What is it? This is when you give time and attention to your body, and practice things that keep the body in good shape on a daily basis.

You can adjust your interaction with the body so that it supports you and becomes one of the reliable sources of enjoying life. Yet, established habits - in nutrition, in relation to training and sports — are not so easy to replace with healthier ones. For this reason, the professional health and wellness coaching industry is booming — you probably still have at least a calorie counter or workout app installed. But how often do you use them?

It takes a while to build a mindful relationship with your body and the process requires a solid foundation of motivation and personal effectiveness. At the same time, new habits are not only healthy behavior, but also regular actions aimed at the formation of body awareness.

Personal experience: 1.5 months in the "I can do anything" mode

This happened about a year ago. Back then, I worked as a PR manager, and wrote articles for Startup Jedi. In my free time, I went out of town, sometimes rode horses, read books and went on Tinder dates. I was quite satisfied with my life, until fate decided it was time for a small plot twist.

I was contacted by an organization and offered to do some startup ecosystem research for them. The task seemed interesting, albeit time-consuming. After some hesitation, I agreed, deciding to work evenings and weekends. At the same time, I started getting close with one of my Tinder fans — I barely had time left for dates, but I believed in myself and my unlimited possibilities and carved out whole hours from those intended for sleep. Besides, I entered the Weight Loss and Health Marathon: I thought “Why not, it doesn't take much time”, so in addition to everything, I counted calories and ran — not in the evenings, because those were booked for the dates. I ran at night.

How did my body react to such diverse loads? It just howled that it needed to sleep, but I didn't listen. I was a soldier, I was a marathon runner, and the end of the distance was still far away. And you know, I passed it, but the body still bounced back. How?

Firstly, severe anxiety — it constantly began to seem to me that I had forgotten to turn off electrical appliances, or that an oncoming car was rushing at me head-on — although it was driving in its own lane. Secondly, I developed serious problems with my hair — amid stress and lack of sleep, it just fell off, and even when I was back to the usual rhythm of work, the situation did not normalize. It took dozens of checks, visits to private clinics and several months of treatment to solve the problem. Thirdly, for the next few months my working abilities were very limited — I put off all more or less voluminous tasks until the deadline, it was very difficult to concentrate on them.

So, in conclusion: everything comes with a price, and if you take away from the body what is vital for it — the ability to rest and replenish resources — it will respond with poor health and “strength” will take what it is supposed to. 

Determine your level of body intelligence

Remember the questions from the classic IQ test? They are quite different, at the end the scores are summed up and you get a total score. It may be high, but a high indicator does not mean that you, for example, don’t have problems with abstract thinking, counting, and other areas of knowledge. The situation is the same with bodily intelligence: there are three ranges of bodily intelligence: insufficient, sufficient and evolutionary. Thus, someone may do really well in awareness and knowledge, but be deficient in action, and vice versa.

To determine your level of body intelligence, answer the following questions. The questions are divided into three groups in accordance with the three main components of body intelligence. This is not a classic intelligence test, there are no time limits and no final score. By answering these questions helps you better understand your possible gaps and then work to eliminate them. 

Body awareness questions:


  • When does your body feel good?

  • And when you don't feel as good as you would like to? How do you explain your poor health?

  • What is the best and worst thing you have ever felt physically? What made you feel these?

  • How do you know that something is wrong with your body? What signals does it send and how do you interpret those?

Body knowledge questions:
  • What do you think you need to know about your body, trying to take care of it properly?

  • How often and in what cases do you visit doctors?

  • What do you know about a healthy lifestyle and what is your healthy lifestyle “formula”?

  • What do you know about human anatomy, physiology, neurology?

  • What is a healthy diet for you? What is the best food to eat? What food is best to avoid? Where do you get information about health, nutrition, sports? How reliable is this source?

  • How should you exercise? Where do you get information about this?

Questions about interaction with the body:
  • What do you usually do to feel better?

  • What do you do to build a new habit?

  • What is your perfect sleeping schedule? What is the best way to replenish energy? What's the best way to relieve stress?

  • How do you feel about alcohol, drugs, nicotine, caffeine and other addictive substances? Ideally, if so and how would you like your attitude towards these things to change?

  • Describe your weekly diet.

  • What is your most effective approach to achieving personal goals?

  • What life factors help or could help you lead a healthier lifestyle more consistently?

  • What good habits would you like to develop in future?

How to increase the level of your body intelligence?

You already know what you need to do — you just need to want a change. As banal as it is, it is unlikely that anything will work out without a simple desire to understand your body and make it healthier. If you are sure you want this, focus on practices that improve the three foundations of body intelligence.

To increase awareness: During the day, listen to your body, describe how you feel, take notes. Try to understand how pleasant or unpleasant your sensations in the body are at the moment, what caused them.

In order to accumulate more knowledge about the body, get used to reading one health article a day, one movie a week, one body and health book every three months. Just make sure that the information that you will receive about the body is reliable and it is interesting to read or watch.

For more engagement, experiment. And if you find it difficult to force yourself to regularly plank or exercise because it is boring, try to vary your activities: for example, do plank exercises on Monday, biking or jogging on Tuesday,  long walks on Wednesday, fitness exercises with a coach on Thursday, and some rest on Friday (this is also important!), swimming pool or tennis on Saturday, and Sunday sauna. Yes, at first it seems scattered and non-systematic, but after a couple of weeks you will be able to choose an optimal activity for yourself and give up what does not bring you joy.

How to increase the level of your body intelligence?

Breath: pay attention to how you breathe — quickly or slowly, softly or is it stiff? Muscle tension: Bring your attention to one part of your body — for example, your neck, shoulders, jaw, forearm — and notice how relaxed or tense your muscles are.

Hunger: next time you're about to eat, notice if you feel physically hungry. Understand what feelings tell you that this desire to eat is physical (for example, rumbling in the stomach, loss of energy), and not emotional.

Posture: How are you sitting or standing now? Is your posture comfortable? Are there any sensations in the body, such as depression, stiffness, pain, that would indicate that you need to correct your posture?

Body intelligence can improve the quality of life

Understanding bodily intelligence begins with recognizing that our body itself is incredibly intelligent. Thus, Dr. Robin Araujo from the Queensland University of Technology (Australia) notes in his study: proteins form incomprehensibly complex networks of chemical reactions that allow cells to “communicate”. In turn, this research lends weight to the concept of embodied cognition, the idea that the body can play a role in thinking and decision making.

Body intelligence is closely related to emotional intelligence. The primary skill of emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your feelings. All sensations are accompanied by sensations in the body (butterflies in the stomach, heartbeat, burning ears), so the more you notice it, the higher your emotional intelligence. Thus, if you live in harmony with your body, listen to it, respect its needs, you can significantly improve the quality of your life.

Body awareness can influence decision making. Some actions cause an instant reaction of the body: for example, while working at a job you don’t like, you may experience stiffness, fear when communicating with colleagues and management, the body may react with increased sweating and stuttering. Perhaps you should meet yourself halfway and find an opportunity to change jobs and team? Suddenly you will find a company with the best benefits package, high salary and healthier relationships in the team!

Knowing the processes and actions that bring pleasure to your body makes a person happier and more satisfied with life, as soon as they make these processes part of their routine. Thus, my body enjoys running in the evenings, cycling long distances (from 40 km) along a new route, long walks, body ballet classes, and a Turkish bath. What does your body like?


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