Hi there!

Would you say you are more “in your head” or “in your body”? Last week, we explored how what you wear on the outside can affect how you act. This week, we will explore how your ability to feel what’s on the inside affects your emotional intelligence.

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Do you know the difference between feeling hungry and feeling anxious?

Your brain’s ability to sense and interpret signals from inside the body (in this case, the stomach) is called your interoceptive ability. It’s pretty important to your emotional intelligence, especially emotional literacy. Imagine your body feeling sluggish, numb, and heavy; the inside of your body is giving you strong signals of sadness (or a cold!). If your brain doesn’t pick up on these signals, or doesn’t know how to interpret them, your body’s data of sadness or an oncoming sickness gets lost. Navigating either scenario is made exponentially more difficult if you don’t understand exactly what it is you’re supposed to be navigating in the first place!

Sadness used to pour down on me seemingly out of nowhere. I’d be living my happy life when, suddenly, I felt knee deep in depression. I was unprepared to navigate the emotion because I was drowning in it before I had even noticed the rain drops. I struggled to notice the signals of sadness in my body until they were really, really big rain drops. I struggled with interoception.

Increasing my interoceptive abilities has been a journey of listening to the more subtle sensations of my body: the tightening chest, the drop in my stomach, the feeling of slight sluggishness.

I want to continue deepening my ability to feel the rain drops before the downpour so that I can adequately prepare myself. So I looked into some tips for increasing my interoception, and I invite you to join me:

In this study from the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, participants regularly did a body scan meditation, which focuses on enhancing the meditator’s interoception. After only 8 weeks, the participants statistically increased their ability to observe thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations as well as lessen their reaction to stress. Overall, their psychological wellbeing increased. Ready to try it for yourself?

Take a moment to close your eyes and do the following:

Set a timer for 1 minute, and turn your attention toward the inside of your body. Without any agenda or judgment, just notice what sensations are going on inside your body.

When the timer goes off, consider these ongoing ideas for getting more into your body and less into your head:

  1. Take 3-5 pauses throughout the day to simply notice where you feel sensation in your body.
  2. When you feel hungry or thirsty today, notice the sensations that it brings up in the body.
  3. Do this guided body scan meditation. Or guide yourself: Find a comfortable place to lay down, then set a timer for 5 minutes. Scan you attention from your toes to your head, noticing how each part of your body feels.
  4. Try a new activity that puts focus on the felt sensations of the body, like slow yoga, qigong, or getting a massage. 

Which of the four ideas above could you use to increase your interoception on a more regular basis?

Do you consider yourself more “in your head” or more “in your body”? Is interoception a skill you need to practice?

What emotion do you experience most, and how is it felt in your body? What are the “raindrops” of these emotions?

See you next week!

Illuminate is a weekly e-mail series that provides practical tips + galvanizing inspirations for practicing an emotionally intelligent life. In our time together, we’ll operate from the assumption that you have all the wisdom you need inside of yourself + that you have a purpose the world needs to see. We will explore the tools + techniques to illuminate your own inner wisdom and purpose. If you’d like to receive this free gift of goodness in your inbox every week, subscribe here.

Maria Jackson

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