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Somatic Awareness

What is it

Somatic Awareness or Interoception is the perception of sensations from inside the body. Internal sensations can include those related to organ function such as heart beat, breathing, and satiety, as well as the autonomic nervous system activity related to emotions.

How it helps

Somatic awareness helps knowing when we are hungry, thirsty, or needing rest, through to picking up on and responding to emotions arising from social situations. Being responsive to somatic information allows us to be aware of an emotion cue early, and therefore to process, interpret it, and work out what to do. It helps us care for our bodies (e.g. eat, drink, and rest) which then in turn helps emotional regulation further.

3 ways to increase somatic awareness

1. Use self-touch to heighten awareness, e.g. use one hand to squeeze the other arm. What does the squeezed arm feel like? Pay attention to those sensations. Stop squeezing, take the hand away. How does the sensation change?

2. Sit quietly and tune in. Scan the body. What are you feeling now? Where? Label the sensation with descriptive words e.g. Is it perhaps shiny? Spiky? Soft? Fluffy? Dense? What colour is it?

3. Practice – try doing the above for 5 minutes per day. Like anything, we get better at it with practice.

How a therapist can help

· If one has a history of chronic pain, high stress or trauma, then the ability to interocept or have somatic awareness can be compromised.

· Working with a therapist can help you progress in learning about your body in a way that is safe for you.

· A therapist also provides accountability for home practice - someone to check in on and continue to expand your own practice.

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