Somatic awareness has progressed greatly in the last century, especially in the west. This can be seen in the increased focus on physical fitness and health, from yoga to athletics to dieting. While these techniques are a good way to focus one’s attention, most mental health specialists are quick to point out that self-awareness does not end at the surface.
These experts believe that, in order to lead a fully-satisfied life, one must understand one’s psyche completely. This means not only accepting one’s physical features (from hair colour to height) but also one’s personality, habits, mental processes, and more. The more somatic practitioners know themselves, the better they are able to relate to other people.
What exactly is somatic awareness? How does it work? Find answers to these questions and more, below.
Introduction to Somatic Awareness
Somatic awareness is simply being aware of the body. It can be as simple as paying close attention to sensations, movements, posture, emotions, and thoughts. Somatic refers to the body and its position, feeling, and action when combined with awareness. The principle is based on the fact that the body and mind are connected.
Having a greater awareness of one’s body also leads to an increased consciousness of one’s thoughts and emotions. In turn, it leads to a better understanding of oneself and how one functions, which makes it easier to make better decisions. Practitioners experience somatic awareness when they’re in a state of meditation — the present moment.
The concept of somatic awareness may be difficult to grasp for some people, but it comes naturally to others. The key to achieving full sensory awareness is by learning to live in the now, which comes from practising mindfulness meditation. When consistently practised, this concept becomes second nature, allowing people to appreciate life more and achieve a greater sense of peace.
Why Is Somatic Awareness Important?
Similarly to the mind, the body also clings to past memories and experiences, as evident in how one feels or reacts to certain situations. People with acrophobia (fear of heights) due to past trauma won’t enjoy climbing up and down the stairs of a tower crane or looking out a skyscraper’s window. If they do, they may experience a rapid heartbeat, pale facial skin, or a lump in their throat. This is the body sending signals.
Somatic awareness allows people to deal with their traumas. An individual who frequently feels tense may find that the best way to loosen up is to take a walk, breathe deeply, or sit down in a chair. In this way, they understand their needs and emotions and lead a more fulfilling life as a result.
Benefits of Somatic Awareness
Somatic awareness may be a difficult concept to grasp, but it’s just as important as regular emotional intelligence and cognitive intelligence, if not more so. Hence, it’s worth knowing the many benefits of this concept.
Pain is a direct indicator that something in the body needs attention. When ignored, it can affect all aspects of a person’s life. According to research, people who repress this sensation reportedly experience:
- Fewer physical interactions
- Reduced sense of self
- More signs of depression
A solution to this issue is to increase body awareness through mind-body interventions. Since it allows a person to be conscious of bodily sensations and the emotions it creates, one can respond to problems and, if necessary, seek help sooner.
Improved Mental and Emotional Well-Being
There is a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests mind-body interventions can balance the vestibular and proprioceptive systems that control balance, spatial orientation, and body awareness. It also reduces symptoms of depression, anxiety, and vertigo.
Obesity is a growing epidemic in most parts of the world. In the US alone, one in three adults is overweight. Obesity has been linked to a variety of health issues, such as diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, and even some types of cancer. This condition results from mindless eating, which is also related to poor somatic awareness.
To counter this problem, affected individuals should learn to eat mindfully. Eating slowly and paying attention to what, how much, and when to eat can significantly reduce the risk of obesity and other chronic illnesses.
Increased Resiliency to Stress
The six biggest causes of death in the US are significantly influenced by stress, a notorious silent killer. According to studies, this condition paves way for anxiety, depression, and irritability. The good news is that affected individuals can manage stress by being aware of internal processes.
Self-confidence is among the key determinants of overall happiness. And the key to this trait is body awareness. People who practice mindfulness take charge of their bodies and display confidence in their interactions with others.
How to Develop Somatic Awareness
The first step to developing somatic awareness is to pay close attention to the sensations experienced in different parts of the body. Observe any tense, tight, or anxious feeling and focus on releasing it through gentle massage, stretching, or deep breathing.
When practising mindfulness, pay close attention to the body in everyday situations. For instance, when sitting at a desk, focus on the feeling of the back against the chair and the sensation of the feet on the floor. When walking, pay attention to the feeling of the feet hitting the ground and the movement of the arms and legs.
Finally, be patient and don’t expect to develop perfect body awareness overnight. It takes time and practice to become aware of all the sensations experienced. With regular practice, interested individuals will gradually learn to control and manage their body’s responses to stress and anxiety. Some known helpful exercises include:
- Tai chi
- Balance exercises
- Retro walking
Beginners can also include any of the following mindfulness techniques in their training sessions: Yoga Nidra, movement meditation, and body scan meditation.
Somatic awareness is one of the most powerful tools in today’s busy world. It allows people to better understand the mind-body connection and develop self-confidence. This is why it’s worth taking a few minutes out of each day to practice this method and reap the many benefits it offers.