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Developing mindful body awareness

Many people assume that they (or their kids) are well connected to their bodies, that they are aware of all their body signals, feelings and emotions. However, for many of us, including people who are autistic, people who have experienced trauma, people with a variety of disabilities, people raised without positive adult-child interactions and so on, this is certainly not the case.

Whenever I see someone wearing a t-shirt without any sweater, coat etc in mid-winter I wonder if it is because their internal thermostat is set differently or because they literally don’t feel the cold. When you don’t feel that your body is cold when your body is in fact cold, this is because of poor interoception, in other words poor body awareness (or there may be another neurological or biological reason for a small minority of people). 

The great thing about body awareness is that we know you can learn it, and thanks to neuroscientists and their work on neuroplasticity, we know that learning mindful body awareness can train the brain to notice and be aware of your body more and more over time. In other words by doing specific things whilst being talked through them or talking yourself through them you teach yourself to notice the feelings or body signals associated with those things.

As an example – if you hold an ice cube in one hand and a cube of room temperature jelly in the other (not recommended if you have a sensory aversion to jelly or ice) and you are talked through focusing on the feeling in each hand, on the palms fingers, the different sensations experienced due to the different temperatures. If you then repeat this again (and again) you will find it easier each time to notice something, to be truly aware, to experience mindful body awareness.

If you want to try this out for yourself, have a look at the PDF of activities on the resources page

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Mindful Body Awareness – Interoception

Mindful body awareness is another way of describing interoception, which is the sense of internal biological and emotional body states. For example being aware of your thirst is a type of interoception, as is knowing when your body is relaxed or tense. Without interoception we can’t connect to ourselves and will struggle to connect to others. Interoception skills are linked to well-being, both physical and mental health. Practicing mindful body awareness by doing interoception activities can build your interoception skills and increase your connections to self and others as well as support your physical and mental health.

This website offers a range of supports to enable you to build your interoception as well as for parents, carers and professionals to teach interoception to both children and adults.