Listening to the Body: 5 Simple Ways to Increase Your Somatic Awareness


19 May 2017

You have just been fired from your job, and when you wake up the next morning to get out of bed, your back goes out. Or, you have a fight with your partner, and later in the day you notice your vision is blurry. Maybe you have just been told to prepare a public speech, and your throat suddenly feels scratchy and swollen. There seems to be a connection, but are you imagining it? Maybe. But, if these kinds of “coincidences” sound familiar, it may be time to tune in to what your body is trying to tell you. Namely, that it is time to slow down, tune in, and take care of yourself.

Somatic cues can be one of the most reliable barometers for what is going on in your inner life. However, if you have never learned the language of your body, you may have no idea you are ignoring important messages. Often, individuals “somaticize” anxiety due to repressed emotions, unresolved trauma, and painful relationship experiences, leading to symptoms such as panic attacks, pain, or numbness. The good news is, you can also develop body awareness and resilience related to sources of joy, connectedness, humor, and love.

See more about “superwoman poses” on TED.com


An instructor I had in graduate school once joked, “I am so sick of hearing about the mind/body connection! They are just the same thing!” We all laughed, but I still remember that statement, and I think the message is important here. We can’t walk around like disembodied heads and expect to feel well. Here are five simple ways to tune in to your body, right now, and to make the most of the wonderfully complex and beautiful system that houses, well, you.

“I am so sick of hearing about the mind/body connection! They are just the same thing!”

1. Use your Memory. Can you think of a time when you suspected that your emotional state had something to do with a physical symptom? It could be a smaller thing, like getting a headache after an argument, or a bigger thing, like having a panic attack after hearing a loud noise. Take a moment and try to write down at least three examples.

2. Tune In.  Pause right now a check in with your body. Are you cold? Hot? Hungry? How about your mental state? Are you angry? Relaxed? Happy? Stressed? How do you know? Can you identify specific physical sensations that correlate to how you are feeling emotionally?

3. Learn. TED

4. Experiment.

5. Practice.

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Photograph by Lorem Ipsum via Unsplash

Final note: Although I have tried to provide useful information, this post is not intended to replace the advice of a trained mental health professional or medical doctor. By discussing somatic awareness, I am in no way disregarding serious medical illnesses, or implying that ALL physical symptoms have a psychological cause. I do believe that all physical sensation has a psychological component, however, so it makes sense to develop an understanding of the interrelationship of the body and mind.

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