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  • Melissa Sims

Staying Connected with our Sense of Self

I don’t have to tell you how fast life seems to be moving these days. This time of year, especially, brings on a LOT: fun, stress, overwhelm, excitement, burnout, exhaustion, the list goes on. With all of the conveniences technology has created for our lives, it’s incredibly easy to lose touch with the physical reality of our existence.

The concept of embodiment – the awareness and recognition of our physical selves in space – is often overshadowed by the whirlwind of thoughts, digital interactions, and mental activities that dominate our daily lives. This is why embodiment is so important and neglecting it can lead to a disconnection from our sense of self.


Many of us spend the majority of our time "in our heads," consumed by thoughts, plans, worries, and digital distractions. This constant mental activity can create a disconnect between our minds and bodies, leading to a state where we are not truly present in our physical reality. Think about how busy you can get…have you ever looked at the clock and realized you “forgot” to eat lunch? Or ignored that aching tooth because you were too busy to get it checked out? This can be likened to living permanently in the upstairs of a two-story house, rarely visiting the ground floor where the physical aspects of life exist. When we lose touch with our physical selves, several symptoms can manifest. These may include feelings of anxiety, restlessness, and a sense of being ungrounded. Physical symptoms such as tension, fatigue, and chronic pain can also arise, often as direct consequences of neglecting our bodily needs and cues.

Embodiment, interoception, and mindfulness are interconnected concepts that play a crucial role in understanding and experiencing one's self and surroundings. Interoception refers to the perception and understanding of internal bodily signals. This includes recognizing hunger, thirst, heart rate, and even emotional states like fear or excitement. Interoception is essential for maintaining homeostasis and a balanced state of being. It's the body's way of communicating its needs and states, allowing you to respond appropriately to internal cues.


Mindfulness, as you know, is the practice of being fully present and engaged with the moment, aware of one's thoughts and feelings without distraction or judgment. It involves a heightened state of awareness and is often developed through meditation and other contemplative practices. Mindfulness enhances one's ability to notice and interpret interoceptive signals. By paying close attention to bodily sensations and internal states, practicing mindfulness can develop a deeper understanding of your physical and emotional needs.


Embodiment takes this a step further. It is the process of experiencing and expressing oneself through the body. Embodiment is not just about being aware of bodily sensations (as in interoception) but also about using the body as a medium of experiencing the world and expressing emotions and thoughts. This concept is often explored in somatic therapies and movement practices, where the focus is on understanding and expressing oneself through physical sensations and movements.


The relationship among these three concepts is dynamic. Interoception feeds into mindfulness by providing the raw data of bodily sensations and internal states. Mindfulness, in turn, enhances interoceptive awareness by training the mind to notice subtle internal cues without judgment. This heightened awareness strengthens embodiment, as individuals become more attuned to their bodily experiences and can use them as a means of engaging with the world in a more grounded and authentic way. In essence, interoception, mindfulness, and embodiment form a loop of internal awareness and external expression. By developing each of these aspects, you can achieve a more holistic understanding of yourself, leading to improved emotional regulation, decision-making, and overall well-being.


Embodiment is not just about being aware of our physical selves; it's about integrating our physical experiences with our mental and emotional states. This integration helps us feel more grounded, present, and connected to the world around us. It enables us to experience life more fully, with a greater sense of authenticity and self-awareness.

The holidays are a prime time for self-care practices to slip, which can cause us to lose touch with our physical selves. So, how do we reconnect with our bodies and reclaim our sense of embodiment? Here are some practical steps:


1. Mindful Movement: Activities like yoga, tai chi, or even gentle stretching can help bridge the gap between mind and body. These practices encourage us to move with awareness and intention, fostering a deeper connection with our physical selves.


2. Sensory Engagement: Paying attention to our senses – what we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch – can bring us back to the present moment. This can be as simple as savoring the taste of a meal or noticing the sensation of the wind on our skin. Try choosing three things you can see, then narrow it down to two things you can hear, then further down to one thing you can feel. It's a simple exercise to bring your awareness to your senses.

3. Breath Awareness: Our breath is a powerful tool for grounding ourselves. By focusing on our breathing, we can calm our minds and bring our attention back to our bodies.


4. Body Scanning: Regularly taking time to scan our bodies from head to toe can help us become more aware of physical sensations, tensions, or discomforts, allowing us to address them more consciously.


5. Digital Detox: Reducing screen time and disconnecting from digital devices can help lessen the mental clutter and bring our focus back to our physical environment.

6. Nature Connection: Spending time in nature can have a grounding effect, reminding us of our physical presence in the larger context of the world.

Living an embodied life has numerous benefits. It enhances our self-awareness, improves mental and physical health, and enriches our experiences and relationships. When we are present in our bodies, we are more attuned to our needs, emotions, and the signals our bodies send us. This can lead to healthier lifestyle choices, better stress management, and a more balanced approach to life.

Embodiment is essential for a holistic sense of self. In a world where mental overactivity is the norm, consciously reconnecting with our physical selves can be profoundly transformative. It's about striking a balance between the mental and the physical, ensuring that we live fully, not just in our heads but in our entire being. As we cultivate embodiment, we find our way back to a more grounded, authentic, and connected way of living. Try not to lose sight of that this season. You’re worth it.

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