How to improve decision-making through body awareness journaling

woman seated cross-legged on rock near body of water, contemplating decision-making

Do you struggle with decision-making? 

We encounter countless choices each day. Waffling between options at every decision point isn’t fun.

Work on your memoir or go for a walk instead, revise an old piece or start a new project, research or just start writing, ask for help or do it yourself…

Your body has the capacity to help you out with decision-making. 

The body knows more than the mind can think cognitively.  Sometimes you just need to listen to your gut instead of weighing the pros and cons of the agonizingly endless choices.  

Yet your ability to follow gut instincts relates to the extent that you’re aware of your body’s signals.  If you feel disconnected from your body, you won’t be able to use these potent sensations to help guide you.

How aware of your body signals are you? 

You can measure this by identifying your heartbeat… without putting your hand on your chest or touching a finger to your wrist’s pulse.  The extent that you can pinpoint each time your heart beats without using your sense of touch indicates your level of body awareness.

In The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, Annie Murphy Paul describes this test, as well as other sources of intelligence that we can access beyond our brains.

Sensation is one form of intelligence we can use to help in decision-making.  

If you’re sensitive, you may get what feels like “too much” sensory input from both your internal and external circumstances.  It can be tricky to distinguish the pit in your stomach and understand where it’s coming from, and why. 

Slowing down through meditation or body-oriented awareness practices can really help define sensations, expand your vocabulary of body sensations, and translate sensations to understand what they mean.

One key to journaling effectively is being connected with your body sensations at the same time as you’re writing. 

Writing naturally turns your focus reflective and inwards. On top of that, it’s helpful to pay attention to your body as you’re writing. I find this makes for a more potent transformative experience.

To support your decision-making process, I invite you to try keeping an interoceptive journal the way Paul lays it out in The Extended Mind.  

An interoceptive journal is a record of the choices we make and how we felt when we made them.* 

Each entry has these parts:

  1. A brief account of the decision you’re facing. (e.g. Should I plan to go out of town next weekend? Should I take this job?)
  2. A description—as detailed and precise as possible—of the internal sensations you experience as you contemplate the various options available. (Consider the paths that lie before you, one by one, and take note of how you feel as you imagine choosing one path over another.)
  3. The choice you ultimately settle on.
  4. Description of any further sensations that arise upon making this final selection.

Once you know the outcome of a decision, you can check how you felt at the moment you made the choice.

Look for patterns in retrospect.  You might notice a constriction in your chest when thinking of a choice leading to disappointment and a lifting and opening of the ribcage when pondering a future successful option.  

These sensations are subtle, so be kind to yourself if you struggle to differentiate them at first. 

Putting words to them in your record will help.  As with anything, the more you practice, the better you’ll be at clearly identifying these sensations and translating them towards successful outcomes.  You can use your log to help understand your own process and improve future choices in decision-making.

This ability is one that will serve you well in the future.  I wish you ease in making decisions with confidence, while feeling connected to your total inner landscape.

*Interoceptive journal exercise and description from The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul