In our contemporary culture, we put a disproportionate amount of emphasis on the mind. Through mobile phones, the internet, computers, virtual games, and the ever powerful and pervasive social media- activities of the mind dominate all aspects of life. As a result, children can become easily disconnected from the awareness of their our bodies. This awareness of what's going on inside of our bodies is called interoception.
This disconnection can lead to many health problems. In fact, we are seeing a rapid rise in emotional and mental health problems as a result of this disconnection. Neurobiological research on interoception has demonstrated this. (see article>>)
What is Interoception?
We have 8 senses- sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, balance, and body orientation in space. Interoception is the eighth sense. It helps us sense what is going on inside of our bodies- both physically and emotionally. It allows us to feel important sensations like hunger and thirst as well as emotions, which are often felt directly in the body. This is interoception at work.
Interoception helps prevent or manage physical and mental health problems and can bring about a sense of well-being.
Why is interoception so critical? Self-awareness, emotional and behavioural regulation depend on our ability to effectively sense, label and take action (or not take action) on physical and emotional cues and sensations. Interoception helps prevent or manage physical and mental health problems and can bring about a sense of well-being.
Here are three key benefits to fostering body-awareness in children from day 1-
1. Improved Social Functioning- Children connected to their bodies are better able to understand, communicate and respond to their bodily sensations. This can help a child remain energetic, calm, and focused, resulting in successful emotional relationships and learning
2. Stress Resilience- Children connected to their bodies can more easily and quickly detect stress in the body and respond in a healthy way. They are also more effectively able to calm themselves down during difficult situations and recover afterwards.
3. Better Sense of Self- All biological emotions are experienced in the body. Children who are aware of their bodies, are also more aware of their emotions, as well as the thoughts and actions that arise from those emotions. This is the foundation of self-awareness and a strong sense of self.