Understanding Interoceptive Awareness: A Key to Improved Mental Health

Uncategorized Sep 18, 2023

In a recent podcast interview with Dr. Emma Goodall, we delved into the fascinating world of interoceptive awareness and its profound impact on mental health. Emma is, an autistic researcher and author, has dedicated years of her life to understanding this concept, and her insights shed light on why it's crucial for everyone, especially those facing mental health challenges, to grasp the significance of interoception.

What is Interoceptive Awareness?

Interoceptive awareness, as Emma explains, is our ability to recognize and accurately interpret the signals our body sends us from within. These signals encompass a wide range of sensations, including temperature, heart rate, muscle tension, and more. When we're attuned to these internal cues, we can respond to them appropriately.

However, various factors can affect our interoceptive awareness. For neurodivergent individuals, like those with autism or ADHD, or individuals who have experienced trauma, interoception may be impaired. This impairment can lead to difficulties in recognizing and responding to these internal signals, which can, in turn, impact our mental health.

The Link Between Interoception and Mental Health

One of the most significant takeaways from Dr. Emma Goodall’s research is the connection between interoceptive awareness and mental health. She highlights that individuals facing mental health conditions often struggle with interoceptive awareness. When we're disconnected from our internal bodily signals, our perception of reality becomes altered. This altered perception can contribute to the symptoms of mental health conditions.

Emma emphasises that improving interoceptive awareness can lead to a reduction in the symptomatology of mental health conditions. This is a critical insight, especially when addressing challenges like problematic alcohol use and other coping mechanisms . Often we turn to booze to numb our feelings, seeking relief from emotional discomfort. By developing interoceptive awareness, we can naturally navigate our emotions, reducing the need for self-destructive coping mechanisms.

How to Cultivate Interoceptive Awareness

Emma shares practical techniques for enhancing interoceptive awareness, which can benefit individuals of all ages. Here's a brief overview:

Mindful Body Awareness Exercises: These exercises involve deliberately changing your body position or state and paying attention to the sensations you experience. For instance, you can stretch a muscle and notice how it feels. This simple practice can help you become more aware of your body.

Repetition: It's essential to repeat interoceptive activities to improve your awareness continually. Emma suggests holding stretches, wiggling body parts, or even experimenting with temperature sensations.

Neurological Calming: Engaging in interoceptive activities triggers the mindfulness part of the brain, but this only occurs when the parasympathetic nervous system is engaged, promoting a state of calm. Therefore, these activities can help you neurologically calm down, reducing stress and anxiety.

Use of Distracting Activities: In situations where you're overwhelmed by emotions or stress, you can use distracting interoceptive activities, like focusing on the sensations in your foot, to regain control and calmness.

Accessing Resources for Improvement

Emma's commitment to making her work accessible to all is commendable. She has authored books on self-regulation and interoception, with one targeted at children and another at adults. These books offer valuable insights into improving interoceptive awareness.

She has made many resources available for free online, including a comprehensive PDF guide and animations. These resources cater to various age groups and can be immensely helpful in embarking on the journey of enhancing interoceptive awareness.

Dr. Emma Goodall's groundbreaking work on interoceptive awareness illuminates a crucial aspect of our mental well-being. By developing our ability to perceive and respond to our body's signals, we can potentially alleviate symptoms of mental health conditions and find healthier ways to cope with life's challenges. With free resources readily available, anyone can start their journey toward improved interoceptive awareness, ultimately leading to a more balanced and fulfilling life.


50% Complete

Aussie Alcohol Experiment Waitlist

Join now to be first in for the next AAE