The more and more that neuroscientists and psychologists have been studying the mind, they have discovered how connected our brain and body are. We actually have a brain in our gut, our “gut brain” that has hundreds of millions of neurons and produces neurotransmitters like serotonin that are responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being.
It is so important to understand that we feel and experience emotions in our body, whether we are aware of it or not. When we are anxious, it is not uncommon to have an uneasy stomach, to sweat, shake, feel fidgety, have tensed muscles, etc. Part of being able to learn to self-regulate well involves having a friendly relationship with your body. Through breathing, moving and touch, we have the ability to regulate our own physiology. When we regulate our bodies, we are better able to regulate our minds.
When we avoid tuning into our body and feeling, we develop an increased vulnerability to being overwhelmed, making it even harder to settle ourselves when overwhelmed, overstimulated, or stressed out. Physical awareness is an important first step to releasing the hold that pain, anxiety and trauma may have on us. It can be easy to rely on external stimuli to help us regulate ourselves- alcohol, drugs, seeking validation from others. All of these mechanisms take us out of this awareness of ourselves and what is going on for us physically when we are upset or in distress.
Being able to be aware of and educated on this connection between the mind and body is an important part of the work that I do with my clients in therapy. As helpful as it can be to learn to change your thinking and gain insight into what is going on for your emotionally, it is equally as important to understand how our body holds, feels and deals with complex emotion, trauma and distress. Being able to regulate our body leads to being able to better regulate our mind as well.