How to Unleash Your Body’s ‘Physical Intelligence’

physical intelligence

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The following article is excerpted from Healthy Aging® Magazine. To continue reading this article and more like it, subscribe to Healthy Aging® Magazine, the lifestyle magazine that is all about following your passion and what you can do rather than what you can’t.

By Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton

Right at this moment, can you feel the pace of your heartbeat? Can you feel the movement of your breath entering and leaving your body? Can you feel the shape of your spine? Can you capture the feeling of your current mood and what is creating that mood today?

Take a moment to focus on each of these questions. As you do, you will likely become more aware, more actively present in your body.

Over 400 chemicals (hormones and neurotransmitters) racing through our bloodstream and nervous system dictate how we think, feel, speak, and behave. Physiology drives performance; yet, most of us experience thoughts, reactions, and emotions without realizing that we can strategically influence them.

Physical intelligence is the ability to detect and actively manage the balance of certain key chemicals so that we can achieve more, stress less, and live and work more happily.

There are hundreds of Physical Intelligence techniques – breathing techniques, movements, thought processes and ways of communicating – many drawn from the worlds of elite sports and the arts, all well supported by neuroscience and easy to incorporate into your day-to-day life.

Some only take seconds.

Four Elements and Eight Chemicals Form the Backbone of Physical Intelligence

Four Elements


Inner strength, confidence, resolve; appropriate risk-taking; keeping a clear head under pressure; establishing boundaries; remaining committed


Creativity, innovation, and collaboration; having high respect for others; effectively engaging and influencing those around you; adapting to different styles; being agile and quick-thinking; embracing and instigating change


Bouncing back from adversity and conflict; remaining optimistic; adopting a learning mindset; and developing a well-functioning immune system with emotional, mental, and physical fitness.


Staying power, determination, maintaining sustained effort over the long term, finding intrinsic motivation, persevering and planning

Eight Chemicals

While there are many chemical interactions that we can’t and wouldn’t want to influence, these eight chemicals work in combination to make or break our success. Each has a clear signature announcing its arrival or departure. When the chemical balance is right, we call it the ‘Winning Cocktail’.


Helps us rebalance, renew and recover from pressure. Signature feeling: balance.


Releases a burst of energy when we need it, but can also make our nerves kick in, making it difficult to communicate effectively. Signature feelings: fear or excitement


Critical to our ability to take on challenges, but in today’s fast-paced world if we have too much, it can send us into overdrive, triggering heightened anxiety. Signature feeling: anxiety


THE high-performance chemical, supporting vitality and cognitive function; drops post-30, is accelerated by stress and if too low leads to premature aging. Signature feeling: vitality


Motivates us, giving us feelings of pleasure and need; when we feel disappointed it’s due to a lack of dopamine. Signature feelings: pleasure and need


Our social bonding and trust chemical that makes us feel safe and included; too little and we feel isolated, too much and we feel overly dependent on relationships. Signature feeling: belonging


Influences our levels of happiness, satisfaction, and well-being; high cortisol can drain our serotonin levels until depression sets in. Signature feeling: happiness


Drives our desire to achieve and compete; too little can make us risk-averse, too much can make us arrogant and underprepared. Signature feelings: power and control

Here are a few techniques to get you started.

Start Building Your Physical Intelligence…

Build Strength:

Pay attention to Posture and Breathing. Stand/sit up straight, feet flat on the floor, spine long, shoulders wide and relaxed, and practice paced breathing for at least 10 minutes daily – breathing in and out at a steady pace comfortable for you; in and out counts don’t have to match (increasing DHEA, releasing acetylcholine and reducing cortisol).

To reduce nerves and increase confidence (balancing cortisol and adrenalin), stand in a winner (starfish) pose (really reach long through the ends of your fingers) for two minutes before key events.

Build Flexibility:

To reduce cortisol and boost oxytocin, dopamine, DHEA, and serotonin:

Scan your body head to toe to identify ‘hot spots’ where you hold tension and work on stretches to release them.

Twist at the waist twice a day to release toxins and boost serotonin.
Spark creativity by taking a walk or looking at beautiful objects in art or nature.

Build Resilience:

Maintain optimal cortisol levels by scheduling time each week for REST: Retreat (step away from all technology/media), Eat (healthfully), Sleep (7-9 hours/day), and Treat (replace unhealthy treats with restorative activities – bike ride, bath, reading, music, etc.).

If you’re dwelling on something, talk to someone you trust about it, then commit to letting it go.

Smile at yourself in the mirror every morning to boost serotonin.

Literally, jump for joy – it increases optimism.

Build Endurance:

Show appreciation for someone (boosting dopamine in both of you).

Shower in cold water for the last 30 seconds to improve energy.

If your willpower weakens or you’re resisting doing something necessary, flex your muscles (e.g., clench your fists) and say out loud, “Come on, you can do this!” to boost dopamine.

Physical intelligence underpins and strengthens our cognitive and emotional intelligence, enabling us to get in the driver’s seat of our brain and body, thinking more clearly and acting more thoughtfully and intentionally so that we can be our best self, armed with the secret to feeling happier, calmer, more confident and fulfilled. Start mixing your “Winning Cocktail!”

Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton are the authors of the personal development book Physical Intelligence (Simon & Schuster), available in Ebook and hardback.

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