Interoception. It Does a Body (and Brain) Good.

Photo by Elina Sazonov on Pexels

Learning to notice your body’s sensations can positively impact sleep, focus clarity, stress regulation, pain and more. If you intend to live your best life, honing this skill is a must. Happily, it’s also pretty simple and very relaxing. For those interested in more details, keep reading. If you prefer an experience, click here to try a 12-minute guided meditation. Here’s to you!

One of my clients recently explained how  she demystified the phrase listening to your body. She said, “my neck was tight, and I noticed that it felt better when I moved it into another position. I moved it  back and forth a few times to make sure it wasn’t just a coincidence, and that’s when it hit me:  listening to my body  just means noticing the sensations  in my body.” 

Noticing body sensations is called “interoception” in professional and scientific circles.  It’s really just a fancy name for  a powerful tool that anyone can master. If you’re aiming for vibrance, wellbeing, longevity and solid performance,  then self-sensing is essential.  Realize it or not, you already have skills and if you decide to actively practice them, you’ll probably gain influence over many important areas of your life. 

Sensing the inner landscape of the body is all about becoming aware of something that’s already going on, such as breathing or a beating heart.  Some others:

  • noticing thirst, hunger, a full bladder
  • becoming aware of a cold, headache or fever coming on
  • feeling well-rested, or feeling tired
  • awareness of emotions, mood, gratitude

In sessions with my clients, it might be:

  • perceiving changes in pressure or stretch 
  • sensing muscle tension or relaxation
  • observing flow, rhythm and sensations of breathing
  • noticing areas holding stress, tension, trauma

It makes intuitive sense (and science is also proving in clinical studies) that noticing and appropriately responding to the body’s subtle and not-so-subtle cues can lead to better self-regulation of stress, improved sleep, less pain, gains in focus and mental clarity, and even faster healing. Imagine being able to turn the tables on stress or mood by noticing early signs (ex: increased heartbeat, short, fast respiration, clenched jaws, not thinking clearly) and taking measures to counteract them. Or maybe you sit at a desk all day. If you’ve trained yourself to notice mild discomfort, you could decide to revamp your workspace or take movement breaks to prevent additional problems.

An easy way to practice self-sensing  is taking notice of yourself breathing. It’s not hard, and before long you’ll build up a natural awareness. Perceiving your heart beat is another simple method. It’s more subtle than the breath, but learnable all the same.

Body sensing meditations might be the most relaxing way to practice interoception. You can follow a guided meditation, or try it DIY style. I’m certified in a type of guided meditation (Yoga Nidra) that uses body sensing.  All you need to do is get comfortable, press “play” and follow the guidance of my voice. Here’s the link again for my free 12-minute recording.  I’ll be sharing more of these meditations in the near future. 

If you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into the science of interoception, I really recommend this  HubermanLab podcast episode. Dr. Huberman is a medical school professor at Stanford, and he’s also dedicated to bringing science-based information and tools to the public.

As always, please reach out to schedule a consultation or appointment for help with body pain, stress-regulation and/or self-care strategies. If you have trouble finding times that work for you, just contact me directly. My schedule changes often, and spaces are always opening up. And finally, please pass on this information to anyone you know who could benefit.

Thank you for reading, and I wish you peace in every day.

~Anita

Short-Circuit Stress by Thinking Small

Photo by Mitya Ivanov on Unsplas

Self-care is a hot topic. Just search “what is self-care” on Google and you’ll find billions of entries. If you’re already overwhelmed or stressed, the sheer volume of information could make matters worse. I want you to know that self-care can be simple and sustainable when you introduce tiny practices that fit your lifestyle. I know, because I did it myself when my kids were really young and I’d just had a major health scare.  

Before 2005, I would have dismissed “self-care” as impractical and new-agey. But one sunny June day I suddenly felt deathly ill and was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. On the way, a paramedic comforted me, saying he recognized the symptoms and thought it was just(!) a panic attack. He was right. All of my scans and tests came back normal and I left the hospital, relieved. But the relief wore off  when I started worrying about future attacks and my young children who needed their mom. So I researched, experimented, and followed my gut for months, testing effective ways to feel like myself again. I made things up (singing nursery songs aloud to disable panic), learned to breathe differently (slow, deep breaths to calm my nerves), and discovered meditative movement (QiGong). Despite being a complete novice, I figured it out on the fly. Fortunately, I experienced the body/spirit/mind’s remarkable potential to restore itself.

At the time,  I mostly needed  effective, fast-acting stress reduction strategies. Although everyone benefits from a variety of self-care methods, this article is limited to sustainable,  simple and quick tension tamers. 

Here are 3 easy ways to help you restore inner calm. Whether you’re brand new or a seasoned self-carer, your nervous system will be appreciative (and so will everyone around you). 

The Physiological Sigh: Calm the Nervous System
2-minute video  demonstration here

2 inhales through the nose, filling the lungs
Long exhale through the mouth, with an audible sigh
Repeat 2-3 times, pausing briefly between rounds

The 5-4-3: Ground the Senses
Wherever you are, look around. Take one or two slow, deep breaths before you start, and then breathe naturally the whole time. Using one sense at a time, follow the instructions below, to anchor your mind and focus your attention.  It’s fine to use any of your senses in the order you prefer:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can hear
  • 3 things you can smell

 If you like, you might try holding your attention on each “thing” for 1-3 counts or 1-3 breaths. 

Contract-Release: Relax Tense Muscles
6-minute guided audio here This is an easy way to release tension in tight muscles by holding mild-medium tension in a specific body part for 5-15 seconds, then letting go. It is not intended to and should never cause intense symptoms or pain.  If you have any medical or musculoskeletal  issues that might be adversely affected by this type of physical activity, consult your doctor first. 

The top reasons most of us skimp on self-care (not enough time, energy, finances) don’t apply to micro-practices, and I invite you to nourish yourself with 1-2 tidbits every day. The smallness of the commitment makes it easier to say “yes” to more health, vitality and peace in your life, with modest effort. I hope you come to value them as much as I do.

If you need any support from me, I’d love to help. You can check appointment availability for self-care coaching, myofascial massage, relaxation therapies, and intuition development by contacting me directly or online. If you can’t find an open time that works for you, please reach out and I’ll see what I can do.  I also encourage you to use the free 20-minute consultation to discuss your particular issues and how my services might be of value to you.

Wishing you more peace in every day, 

Anita


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