Do you ever get a “gut feeling” about something? That is your interoceptive sense at work. Interoception is the process of sensing the internal state of the body, and it plays a huge role in our wellbeing. Unfortunately, most of us don’t even realize that we have this hidden sense!
In this blog post, I will discuss what interoception is, the link between interoception and mental health, and what we can do to improve our interoception.
What is interoception?
Interoception is the process of sensing the internal state of the body. This includes things like hunger, fullness, pain, temperature, heart rate, and breathing. It is basically our ability to sense what is going on inside our bodies.
Most of us are not aware of our interoceptive sense because it happens unconsciously. We are not consciously aware of the signals our body is sending us. For example, you are not consciously aware of your heart rate or breathing unless you focus on it.
The link between interoception and mental health
There is a strong link between interoception and mental health. Studies have shown that people with anxiety and depression have a higher interoceptive sensitivity. This means that they are more aware of the internal signals their body is sending them.
“Researchers and clinicians are recognising interoception as a key mechanism to mental and physical health, where understanding our body’s signals helps us understand and regulate emotional and physical states.”Dr Helen Weng at the University of California San Francisco
People with anxiety and depression are constantly bombarded with negative thoughts about their body. They focus on every little sensation and interpret it as something bad. For example, they may feel a pain in their stomach and think they are going to vomit, even though there is no evidence that they are sick.
What can we do to improve our interoception?
There are many things we can do to improve our interoception.
The first step is to become aware of the sense itself. Once you are aware of your interoceptive sense, you can start to pay attention to the signals your body is sending you.
You can also start to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment. This can help you to become more aware of your body and learn to interpret the signals it is sending you correctly.
Finally, you can try some interoceptive exercises. These are exercises that help you to focus on the internal sensations of your body. One example is the Body Scan Meditation. You can also try breath awareness, heart rate variability training, and yoga.
How to do the Body Scan Meditation
- Find a comfortable position lying down or sitting up.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Start to focus your attention on your toes. Notice the sensations in your toes. How do they feel? Are they warm or cold? Do you feel any tingling or pain?
- Now move your attention to your feet. Notice the sensations in your feet. How do they feel?
- Continue to move your attention up your body, focusing on each part for a few minutes.
- When you reach your head, take a few deep breaths and open your eyes.
How to practice Breath Awareness
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
- Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
- Breathe normally and focus your attention on your breath.
- Notice how your stomach and chest move as you breathe.
- Try to breathe from your stomach, so that your stomach moves more than your chest.
Heart Rate Variability Training
Heart rate variability training is a type of meditation that involves focusing on your heart beat.
To do this, you need to find a comfortable position and place your hand on your heart. You can also use a heart rate monitor if you have one.
Focus your attention on your heartbeat and try to breathe in sync with it.
You will notice that your heart rate will start to slow down.
Yoga is a great way to improve your interoception. It involves both physical and mindfulness components that can help you to focus on your body and become more aware of the signals it is sending you.
There are many different types of yoga, so you can find one that suits your needs and abilities.
If you are new to yoga, it is best to start with a beginners class.
Interoception is a hidden sense that plays a big role in our wellbeing. By becoming aware of this sense and practicing interoceptive exercises, we can improve our mental health.
If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, talk to your doctor about interoception and how it might be affecting you. They can help you to find ways to improve your interoception and live a healthier and happier life.
For Further Reading:
The following are some posts you might find useful if you struggle with anxiety.
- Relationship Anxiety: What It Is, What Causes It, and How to Overcome It
- How to Overcome Anxiety with Simple Grounding Techniques
- Driving Anxiety: How you can overcome the phobia of driving
- Pet Separation Anxiety: The Human-Animal Bond in Two Studies
- How to Help Your Child Overcome Social Anxiety: What You Need to Know
- 20 Affirmations to Calm Anxiety and Improve Your Life
- Anxiety vs. Depression: How to Tell the Difference and Get Help
- Anxiety and Heart Disease in Men: What you need to know
- Spinner Rings – a natural way to reduce stress and anxiety
- Music To Heal Anxiety – The Best Songs to Listen to When You Are Anxious
- Managing Anxiety and How to Stop It from Ruining Your Life
- How to Manage Anxiety and Stress with a Mindfulness Practice
- What to Say to a Friend with Anxiety Instead of ‘Don’t Stress’
- Inspirational Quotes about Overcoming Anxiety
- Everything You Need to Know About Self-Soothing
- The Danger of Being a Perfectionist: Why You Need to Let Go
- Getting Out of a Rut: Tips for Breaking out of Your Comfort Zone
- Interoception: the hidden sense that shapes wellbeing
- How to Control Anxiety in the Face of War: Tips for Coping
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Everything You Need to Know
- Gardening – A Fun and Healthy Way to Lower Stress, Anxiety and Depression
- How to break the rumination cycle
- 11 Steps to Coping with Climate Anxiety: What You Need to Know
- Acupuncture for Anxiety – How does it work and why does it help?
- Mindfulness Puzzles: How to Reduce Stress and Relax with Adult Puzzles
- 11 Ways to Stop Comfort Eating and Cope Better with Stress
- How to help Employees Deal with Anxiety in the Workplace
- Suffering From Anxiety Attacks? Symptoms and 10 Ways to Calm Down
- Separation Anxiety in Adults – How to Overcome Separation Anxiety as an Adult
- The Answer to the Question “Is There Such a Thing as Good Anxiety?”
- A Comprehensive Guide to Different Types of Anxiety Disorders
- Stress Eating: What is it, Signs you’re doing it, and How to Stop
- Things to help with anxiety – How to Reduce Worry and Overthinking
- 10 Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder as Defined By DSM 5
- Anxiety Disorders – do we pass them on to our children?
- How to Overcome Social Anxiety – 6 Effective Strategies
- How to Cope with Climate Anxiety – What You Need to Know
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