EVERY ACTION YOU TAKE
IS A VOTE FOR THE PERSON YOU WANT TO BECOME.
~~ James Clear
Happy Friday to all my precious people!!!
Snow is gently falling outside today, reminding us we are still in the midst of Winter.
Winter is about going deep inside to prepare for the reanimation of life once the Spring season arrives. This cold season appears still and quiet, but if we stop and consider all that is happening below the surface, there is much activity being generated! The seeds deep in the soil are finding their roots, getting ready to burst up and out in vibrant colors as Nature organizes herself in the coming months. Everything relies on something, and the smallest activity impacts the largest levels during the ongoing cycles.
The foundation of Chinese medicine is rooted in the belief that everything within the web of life is connected. There are seasons, cycles, and ultimately patterns that emerge and are identifiable. As clinicians, we use these data points to create the big picture of health for our patients by reconnecting the information with a new lens to reflect the miraculous, unconscious operation of the mind-body. The journey of the person that led them to our door is integral to the healing process as we help them learn to listen to their mind-body wisdom. The capacity to heal is within the domain of the mind-body only, and as the clinician in the room, we hold space as the ancient process unfolds.
Did you know there is growing evidence that signals sent from our internal organs to the brain play a major role in regulating emotions and fending off anxiety and depression?
If you’re sitting in a safe and comfortable position, close your eyes and try to feel your heart beating in your chest. Can you, without moving your hands to take your pulse, feel each movement and count its rhythm? Or do you struggle to detect anything at all? This simple test is just one way to assess your “interoception” – your brain’s perception of your body’s state, transmitted from receptors on all your internal organs.
Interoception may be less well known than the “outward facing” senses such as sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell, but it has enormous consequences for your wellbeing. Scientists have shown that our sensitivity to interoceptive signals can determine our capacity to regulate our emotions, and our subsequent susceptibility to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. It is now one of the fastest moving areas in neuroscience and psychology, with academic conferences devoted to the subject and a wealth of new papers emerging every month. “We are seeing an exponential growth in interoceptive research,” says Professor Manos Tsakiris, a psychologist at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Importantly, these findings include promising new ways for you to “tune in” to the body and alter your perception of its interoceptive signals – techniques that may help treat a host of mental and physical health problems. It is only by listening to the heart, it seems, that we can take better care of the mind. Sitting quietly and practicing slow, rhythmic breathing is one way to “tune in”, while practicing gentle yoga poses can be another. Slowing down is key to this, allowing one’s self to be present and be aware.
Interoception, it seems, is one of our most important senses. And by paying a little bit more attention to the signals it sends you, you may be healthier in body and mind. Interoception includes all the signals from your internal organs, including your cardiovascular system, your lungs, your gut, your bladder and your kidneys. “There’s a constant communication dialogue between the brain and the viscera,” says Tsakiris.
Much of the processing of these signals takes place below conscious awareness: you won’t be aware of the automatic feedback between brain and body that helps to keep your blood pressure level, for instance, or the signals that help to stabilize your blood sugar levels. But many of these sensations – such as tension in your muscles, the clenching of your stomach, or the beating of your heart – should be available to the conscious mind, at least some of the time. And the ways you read and interpret those feelings will have important consequences for your wellbeing.
“Researchers and clinicians are recognizing interoception as a key mechanism to mental and physical health, where understanding our body’s signals helps us understand and regulate emotional and physical states,” says Dr Helen Weng at the University of California San Francisco.
This idea stems from the pioneering work of Prof Antonio Damasio at the University of Southern California in the 1990s. He proposed that emotional events begin with non-conscious changes in bodily states, called “somatic markers”: when you see an angry dog, for instance, and your muscles tense or your heart begins to race. This physiological reaction occurs before you are even aware of the emotion, and it is only when the brain detects the alteration to the body’s internal state, through interoception, that we actually experience the feeling and allow it to shape our behavior. Without the back-and-forth between the brain and the body, the feelings of happiness, sadness or excitement wouldn’t exist.
In the accompanying podcast episode from Zoe Nutrition, the speaker and author James Clear talks about what it takes to change habits and establish new behaviors. “Every action you take is a vote for the person you want to become,” says Clear. He encourages us to focus on the person we want to be rather than the behavior we are trying to implement or change. For example, if we choose to make the new year a time when we are more aware of what we eat, or how we speak, or how we move, begin to slow down, become aware of how the body-mind feels when we imagine being healthy, moving with ease, and speaking with integrity. Step into that version of your Self and the behavior changes will follow.
Interoception lies behind our sense of intuition – when something feels “right” or “wrong” without an explanation – imagine that!!! But you are encouraged to commit to creating time to listen to your mind-body whispers – and we will help you connect the dots to the bigger picture of how you can support your health and influence positive outcomes!!
As the Year of the Wood Dragon approaches, get excited about new ways of thinking, doing and being in the world. Choose to be aligned with your secret dreams and your greatest desires. We are grateful to be part of your support team on this journey!!