What is Your Body Intelligence?
You may be familiar with the concepts of emotional intelligence, how well one handles one’s emotions, or social intelligence, how well one handles social interactions. I would like to propose a new form of intelligence – body intelligence or BQ. I collaborated with psychologist James Gavin at Concordia University in Montreal on this concept. We want to convey that how one manages one’s body is also an important form of intelligence, one that is neglected by the field of psychology and by many people in their everyday lives.
Body intelligence is about how aware you are of your body (body awareness), what you know about your body (body knowl edge), and what you actually do for and with your body (body engagement). This concept may sound new, but it is central to the work of fitness and wellness professionals, as well as to your self-care.
Awareness is about being tuned into your body and its signals. It is about being awake to how your body “speaks” to you and what it is telling you, in a whisper or up to a yell. We often have many physical sensations that we ignore and hope will go away. Being conscious of the impacts that certain foods, physical practices, or internal and external stressors have on your body allows you to learn about what promotes health and vitality, and to make adjustments in the moment.
The greater your body awareness, the more you are in control of bodily outcomes. Being attuned to the effects of that first cup of coffee gives you a base for choosing or refusing a second cup. Mindfulness, reflection, experimenting, and learning are important paths forward to greater body awareness. Body awareness questions include:
1. When does your body feel good? Not so good? What do you attribute this to?
2. What are the best and worst you have ever felt physically? How do you think this came about?
3. How do you know something is wrong with your body? What signals do you interpret?
Ways to improve body awareness include body scans throughout our days. Journaling and meditation are wonderful aids as are “stop-and-notice” practices. Cause-effect reflections involve noticing how you are feeling (good or bad) and reflecting on possible influences.
Body knowledge is akin to what scientists call “health literacy.”1 How much do you know about accepted evidence-based standards and guidelines for healthy bodily functioning? Knowing scientific facts is an important part of health literacy, along with an understanding of the actions needed to diagnose and treat physical concerns.
But that is not enough, it is important to know our markers for health such as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood levels of vitamin D and B12. We also need to know about what our bodies need to make us healthy and increase vitality, what supports our bodies to thrive, including habits of exercise, cooking, and eating, relaxation and recharge, sleep, and stress management. Body knowledge questions include:
1. What do you think you have to know about your body to take good care of it?
2. What is your pattern of checking in with health professionals for checkups, issues, or concerns?
3. What do you know about healthy lifestyles and what is your formula? What should you eat and when? How should you exercise? How should you sleep, recharge, and destress?
4. What is your relationship to alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, caffeine, and other addictive substances, and what would you like it to be?
Even with high levels of body awareness and knowledge, engagement does not come easily. Engagement is about doing the best thing repeatedly until you need to switch to the next best thing. Engagement is commitment to intelligent action based on what you need at this point in your life. How can you configure your life so that your body fully supports your work in the world?
Habits are hard to break and build and that is why the industry of professional health and wellness coaching is being developed. Change that lasts requires a solid foundation of self-motivation and self-efficacy to support our stretching beyond our comfort zones and experimenting with new habits. New habits are not just about engaging in healthy behaviors, but engaging in regular activities to bring body awareness to top of mind. Body engagement questions include:
1. What habits do you engage in consistently that make your body feel better?
2. How do you experiment when you are developing a new habit?
3. What works best for you when you are developing a new habit, for example your approach to setting goals and experimenting?
4. What life factors help you engage more consistently in a healthy lifestyle?
5. What new habits do you want to develop as your next step?
It is time to consider body intelligence as an important domain for your personal development as a fitness and wellness professional, allowing you to thrive and serve as an inspiring role model for your clients and other important people in your life. What is your body IQ score?
Originally published in ACSM Certified News Coaching Column