Interoception is the ability to sense changes from inside our body, for instance our heartbeat, feelings of hunger or breathing. Whether we’re excited, hungry or anxious, these sensations naturally fluctuate depending on internal and external cues, allowing us to take action based on the signals we notice.
Tuning into these body sensations can help us to figure out why we feel the way we do in any given moment.
Our internal sensations are made possible by electrical signals and hormones that flow between our brain and our organs and tissues. Each and every one of us experiences feelings from inside our bodies differently. Some people may misinterpret harmless body sensations as signalling threat. This may contribute to sustained anxiety, which can be very unpleasant and even contribute to poor mental health.
By deliberately choosing to focus inside our body it is possible to learn more about ourselves. Over time, by improving our interoceptive skills we can learn to tell the difference between internal sensations and external situations which may previously have been confused. It can give us more insight and control over how we react when we feel anxious or stressed. Interoceptive skills have long been linked with improved mental health and used to manage a number of conditions, including:
As with our other senses, we can train ourselves to improve interoceptive awareness. Practicing some simple techniques, allows us to become more in tune with how we feel and increase our awareness of our bodies’ signals. Over time, this can help us regulate these sensations and how we react to them.
Over the next few months, we’re working with Anglia Ruskin University on a ground-breaking new study into interoception. With the help of the University’s Dr Jane Aspell, we’ll be developing a web-based training program for internal body awareness.
The aim is to provide people with access to an affordable and easy to access resource for improving mental health, both in the UK and across the globe. As COVID-19 continues to restrict where and when we can see each other, this is now more important than ever.
The eight-part training program will cover topics such as:
How internal sensations arise
Distinguishing between thoughts and feelings
Reflecting upon and re-evaluating the meaning of experiences
Options for building new healthier habits
Every session includes exercises for participants to practice new ways of being aware of their body.
As participants take part in the training we aim to find out it it helps them overcome stress more easily and improve their wellbeing.
We’re incredibly lucky to be working on this study with a fantastic team at Anglia Ruskin University.
For the Inner Sense project, Jane’s role is consulting on the design of the online programme, as well as the pilot study’s design and success. Offering her insight due to her extensive research in interoception.
In relation to this project, Paige’s role is to help refine the body awareness program, facilitate focus sessions as well as aid in the design for the pilot study.
If you’d like to help us develop the online training program whilst developing your own sense of interoception, please leave your details on the box below. We’re looking for volunteers to take part in the study remotely. If you have any questions or would like to register your interest by email. please contact Paige Leggett at: firstname.lastname@example.org