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How to Listen to Your Body?: Interoception!

A question that we often asks to everyone when we see them is “How do you feel?” Or “How have you been?” Either way to ask, usually invites people to think about many of the emotional issues that have happened in their past few days or sometimes remembering that have had some kind of physical ailment! And just by doing that reflection of your life when someone asks is giving you a perception of your body and will allow more awareness of the way you have been feeling and the things that you have been doing as well in terms of your emotional state, your physical activities and depending on the expansion of your awareness you will even have flashbacks of some things that you ate and that where either enjoyable or painful for your body!

All of these emotional pathway that you are constructing within you is giving you a very accurate way to think about your body and help you raise your consciousness about some things that you did, in fact whenever we engage in a conversation with someone about our lives and the way we’ve been feeling, there comes at least one piece of the puzzle that allows you to realize that when you had a bad day, or you became ill, there was something already inside of you pointing you in that direction, but you were not able to listen and obviously you engaged in an unconscious way with your body! Hence the symptom continued until it developed into a stronger disease.

This fact, also highlights your accountability for your actions, as adults and it would be amazing to give these lessons to children, we fall in the addiction of external circumstances and distractions that take you completely away from your inner self, from those reflective moments, that will allow you to construct a powerful narrative within your self, and that will also help you develop a dialogue with your body.

That mindful dialogue with your body is what science now has named interoception and is defined as the ability to detect subtle changes in bodily systems, including muscles, skin, joints, and viscera (1).

It has been argued that representation of the homeostatic condition of the body in the insula and related regions crucially influences cognitive-affective processing (1).

This idea is reflected in early philosophical writings about embodiment (e.g., Descartes, 1649/1989) and was introduced to experimental psychology by William James (1884), who asserted that perception of changes in the body “as they occur is the emotion” (1).

As we can see the concept of awareness in terms of how our body talks to us, comes from ancient philosophical times with Descartes, and yet only after 200 years later was relived by W. James, and nowadays the words awareness and mindful have a very powerful connotation for everyone that has an interest in knowing more about the self, in being more conscious about the body, its functions, its calls and the way it communicates with you.

As similar as the consciousness that you can develop for your thoughts and for the patterns that sometimes you follow, there’s a way to develop a keen sense of what type of body messages you’re receiving.

I’m guessing that many of you whenever you have a time in your life to reflect about what has happened within you, about some kind of ailment in your body, and you keep digging that pathway you suddenly figure out that not long ago there was some emotional situation, or you have been following a stressful set of events or you have been having very poor decisions in terms of the way you eat.

Whatever the situation might be, we all can have this sense of awareness, we all can learn to listen more from within and stop being pulled by the external triggers, distractions and cues.

During this new decade most of people will be faced with the challenge to develop a much deeper sense of their emotions, their self-care and the way you allow your body and thoughts to be in a homeostatic level due to the fact that many health services for chronic diseases will no longer be available, the cost and distribution of medications will have an impact and the substitution of many jobs by artificial intelligence will force us to go more within, to wake more our creativity and top find ways to sustain a proper level of health and awareness.

The level of commitment that you engage with yourself, with knowing your body, with allowing that divine connection between your inner messages and the way you start living will allow you as well to really sense a change in your perception of the world you're living in!

How does this connection works? & What kind of impact could have in your life?

Well, let's begin with the fact that our emotions are a big ally to everything we do, they are raising their voice, our body perceives many of the sensory stimuli, and we have felt those sensations of knowing something, of learning how to perform better, of taking certain decisions, of feeling those "butterflies" in our stomach or gut, all of those are the signals, all of those are the detours, exits and wiser routes that our body is constantly trying to tell us and they start with probably very simple things, that of course you try not to pay attention but the message has already been given.

Where does it start physiologically?

There is crosstalk between specific channels of interoceptive information, and with exteroceptive information, at multiple nodes of the neuraxis (autonomic ganglia, spinal cord, medulla, pons hypothalamus, thalamus, basal ganglia (including amygdala) and cortex). The perceptual characteristics of different interoceptive sensations are determined by both afferent channel and signal strength (2).

As we can see for all the technical names of our organs, neural pathways and even chemical substances traveling through our body, the communication inside our cells, tissues and organs is pretty fluid.

Let's just picture the following example, when you start having a headache due to some kind of migraine, the pain sensation may begin in your forehead, or in either side of your head, however if you are too busy and don't pay attention to the pain quickly, it will start spreading more, releasing more chemical signals and pro-inflammatory molecules which will start the following symptoms, a heavier pain, sensitivity to light, nausea and possibly vomiting until you realize that you need to stop whatever you're doing and isolate from any sensory environmental signal!

Your body is so wise that it let you know that internally you were producing a very critical imbalance that has to be taken care of, however as usual, and as many people are used to holding on to the pain, until it is raising and sometimes even crippling you, then your body knows that the pain has to be increased quickly because you will not listen to the mild and kind messages that is giving you!

And those messages are the ones that throughout our lives and even since we are children are letting us know that something is not right, that we are acting recklessly either with something emotional that we are allowing and is not feeling right or with something physical such as having very poor choices to eat, eating excessively or not eating at all, being more sedentary, maintaining a repetitive thought within us and letting our energy simply get drained, doing too much exercise and not allowing our body to recover, maintaining a stressful way to live for a long time and not trying to look for other options, just to name a few, each of us, will have its own list that ironically many people know what kind of situations are just fast triggers for their internal state and still they keep choosing the wrong paths!

What kind of impact are you allowing within you, when you choose to not pay attention?

That is the interesting and mindful question that everyone should be asking before keep maintaining a very poor level of knowledge of the kind messages and letting our body to take sometimes extreme measures so that we can pay attention to it!

Let's visualize another situation, many of us have children and the ones reading that don't I'm sure during their lives have witnessed a tantrum by a child just to obtain what he wants or you have witness or lived a situation where your child constantly chooses the path of "discipline" the path of harsh consequences instead of doing what they many times already know that they have to do, Why is that behavior so common, even with such an early age?

Quite possibly, it turns out that our primitive structure of the brain which is used to react without any kind of rational behavior is leading us to choose those kind of harsh options, because its nature is to lean to the negative option.

On the other hand, we also have an emotional memory, which sadly many times, and more at such an early age is not even ours, it was programmed and inherited by our parents, grandparents or any generation before through epigenetic marks that have been building up more and more in each generation, that also explains why nowadays we are seeing a lot higher statistics of chronic diseases at very early stages of a child's life!.

And finally there's also a manipulative learned component that many children and adults choose to use in order to get what they want through the wrong path! However they don't seem to realize that choosing that path, eventually will cause more internal damage to them than obtaining what they want through those means.

Human nature, has been complicated just because we have been choosing the wrong options, the bumpier roads, the harsh situations, but it shouldn't have to be that way, if we finally realize that our first purpose in life is the easiest one, knowing yourself, learning how your body talks to you, learning how to control your mind and purify your thoughts since you're a child!

Can you even imagine, if you were really allowed to live a much more mindful life, learning to meditate, learning how your body works, all the connections and all the amazing stuff that it does for you, being more skillful to identify your thoughts, to redirect them, to love yourself, to synchronize your heart with your brain, to breathe appropriately so that you can allow your body to fully oxygenate every cell and be spread to your tissues and organs, to eat the right amounts and not exceeding the number of times you eat just because people say it is better! To avoid sugary and processed foods understanding why not to eat them! To learn to physically release your energy through exercise, knowing all the benefits that it has for your body and internal homeostasis!, and the list can go on ...

But instead, what usually happens with many people is that we learn exactly the opposite since we're children, and this is not to point or blame anyone, is just to illustrate that now we are able and we have the means and the information to start escalating from that selfish, reckless and fearful way of being!

We are now in the position to create a different future for us first, and then as much as possible try to be a leading example to our children, to our family, friends and sharing all that we know to spread a new healing virus, that hopefully will create an epidemic of self knowledge and self love that will in turn ignite our empathy and compassionate sensors for pretty much everyone we encounter in our way!

And it is not about preaching or trying to force or convince anyone, is just living a lot more freely but with an open attitude towards others and of course if it is something that is calling you, becoming an agent of change, an influencer with a solid background in terms of the experiences and of course the information that you want to give to others!

In summary, instead of being listening and reacting to every external cue or trigger we should be able to listen more from within, to start acting with an a more mindful and accountable attitude, not behaving in a childish or primitive way trying to avoid many times the long road but less bumpy, and letting ourselves being driven and choosing the shiny, shallow or more trendy road that is just showing you what "they" want you to see, but a little bit more deep there will be a lot more harsh consequences and of course more pain, hardship and in the end you will have to return to the "basics" to your core, to your origin, to your source!

Which, ironically, is the most full, empowered and divine path that you could ever choose, however nobody allowed you to learned that since the beginning, and there are no guilty people here, there's just one big lesson: Own your life, believe that you have everything inside, commit your own body, listen to your emotions and treat yourself with love, compassion and respect! Sooner rather than later you'll be grateful for choosing that, and you'll be able to inspire others to do the same!

Maybe and I firmly believe we can turn the destination before it is too late, we all be able to learn that path and to choose what is right for us without having to follow any external signal and following more every internal sign that our heart, mind and body are giving us! We'll be able to learn how to listen, instead of provoking a "scream" from within or worse waiting for an illness to show up so that we can believe that the message was serious!


1. Dunn, B. D., Galton, H. C., Morgan, R., Evans, D., Oliver, C., Meyer, M., ... & Dalgleish, T. (2010). Listening to your heart: How interoception shapes emotion experience and intuitive decision making. Psychological science, 21(12), 1835-1844.

2. Critchley, Hugo D., and Sarah N. Garfinkel. "Interoception and emotion." Current opinion in psychology 17 (2017): 7-14.

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