We hear and read the words “Listen to your body” frequently in social media and health magazines, but we don’t understand what it exactly means. Something about healthy living, or yoga perhaps? Or is there more to it?

How often do you find yourself doing something you really don’t feel like doing? Like a workout at the gym, a hot sweaty session in a dark spin-class room or maybe early, early morning runs?

Or perhaps you find yourself eating foods you don’t really enjoy because you “should” – like drinking a protein smoothie that tastes like chalk or eating a salad out to dinner with friends instead of the burger you really, really want.

The similarity between all of these situations is listening to your body – are you listening or are you ignoring what your body is trying to tell you? Most of us ignore our body’s signals because we let our minds and thoughts get in the way. In today’s over social-media”lized” age, we have grown accustomed to comparing ourselves to other’s ‘perfect’ plates, workouts and lives and trying to emulate the same. When we fall short, we feel guilty and are harsh with ourselves, hating our bodies and selves. We fall sick, experience chronic pain, headaches, poor digestion, irritable bowel syndrome, have panic attacks, all because we ignore the warning signs and messages our bodies try to send us.

What if we stopped, paused and started listening to our bodies instead? You may be surprised to find that you feel more alive, healthy and energized than thought possible. This isn’t an unachievable feat: human beings are meant to live with optimal health and freedom. But somewhere along the way, we’ve learned to disregard our body’s messages in favor of societal pressures.

Here are 5 key benefits that listening to your body will help you achieve:

1. Improved Health

Listening to your body’s signals of fatigue and pain amongst other signals can decrease your chances of getting sick. All too often we ignore these signals, we work through chills, stomach upsets or general malaise and end up overworked and overtired. The next time you feel under the weather, heed these signals and aim to rest more and stress less. Listen to your body – how it feels, what it seems to be asking for – is it thirsty? Drink more water. Cold? Take a hot bath and snuggle up on the couch with blankets.

2. No More Crazy Diet / Food Obsession

Learning to listen to your body means that you actually learn when you are hungry and what you are hungry for. You ignore what you think you “should eat” and the latest diet fad and instead choose to hear when your body says it’s really hungry (perhaps stomach rumbles or a headache) and when you’re just bored or irritated. The obsession with food and dieting becomes obsolete as you create peace with food and use it to fuel and care for your body’s needs instead of your mind’s wants.

3. Better Fitness

How does your body feel when you work out or are getting ready to work out? Does it feel tired, achy, sore or energized and light? It’s great to push yourself to go to the gym when you don’t feel like it and overcome mental obstacles. Often you’ll find you have more energy than when you left. However, what about your body? Excessive fatigue and soreness may signal the need for a rest day, a walk instead of a run or a yoga class instead of boot camp. Listening to your body can also help you execute exercises properly by firing off the correct muscles. Target your triceps in push-ups and your glutes with squats versus relying too much on your shoulders and low-back.

4. Improved Self-Confidence And Trust

Listening to your body and shutting out all the exterior noises and societal pressures increases your self-confidence, self-esteem and self-trust. You learn to trust what you need to do for yourself – what foods feel right for your body and what workouts you truly need and enjoy. Self-trust increases your ability to be at peace and love with yourself leading to deep fulfillment.

5. Increased Joy

Bring more joy into your life by listening to your body. Ask it what it wants or needs when you are hungry or tired or angry or sad. Feel how it feels – is there a knot in your stomach? A headache when you think of work or a date? Do more of the things that make you feel light, happy and joyous whether that’s spending more time in nature, with friends or on hobbies.