Blog Mental Health Therapy Somatic Exercises Somatic Awareness: What Your Body Can Teach You About Healing

Somatic Awareness: What Your Body Can Teach You About Healing

We’ve long thought of our minds as the control centers for logic, reasoning, and decision-making. It’s true, our thoughts have immense power to determine our realities, shape our experiences, and influence our emotional health.

However, there’s a more instinctive, primal source of wisdom to be tapped into — our bodies.

Our bodies are constantly sending us signals that aren’t complicated by the biases and complexities that often muddle our cognitive processes.

Just as the mind can influence the body, our bodies can also teach, guide, and help us heal emotionally and psychologically.

Somatic awareness, the practice of tuning into our body’s signals, opens up a pathway to healing that is often overlooked.

Here’s what your body can teach you about healing:

What Is Somatic Awareness?

Somatic awareness is the ability to tune into and interpret the sensations, trapped emotions, and physical cues of our bodies. It’s a form of mindful attention to the present moment and our body’s responses to it (13).

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “gut feeling”, which often manifests as physical sensations, this is a part of somatic awareness.

Our bodies have a way of communicating with us, and by paying attention to these signals, we can gain insight into our emotions, needs, and experiences.

Unlike the gut feeling, which focuses on the sensations in a specific area – the gut, somatic awareness involves paying attention to sensations of our entire physical being.

You may feel a range of sensations all over your body when you’re anxious or stressed, such as a racing heart, tense muscles, or an upset stomach. Your head, heart, chest, stomach, and limbs all hold valuable information that can help us better understand ourselves and our needs.

This forms the basis for somatic therapy, a type of therapy that uses bodily sensations as a tool for promoting emotional and psychological healing.

Unlike talk therapy, which primarily focuses on cognitive processes and verbal communication, somatic therapy incorporates the body as an integral part of the healing process.

Developing somatic awareness can have numerous benefits, such as:

  • Better understanding and management of emotions
  • Increased ability to cope with stress and anxiety
  • Improved body-mind connection
  • Enhanced self-awareness and self-regulation
  • Greater sense of peace and calm in daily life
See also
Somatic Practices: What They Are and How They Work

Whether you want to learn how to exit the spiral of self-harming behavior, overcome anxiety, cure insomnia or simply give yourself the time and space to bliss out and soak up the moment of complete peace and quiet – BetterMe: Meditation & Sleep app is exactly the tool for that ! If you don’t take care of number one, who will?

What Is an Example of Somatic Awareness?

One simple way to practice somatic awareness is through body scanning.

Find a quiet and comfortable space where you won’t be disturbed. Close your eyes and focus on your breath for a few moments, allowing yourself to fully relax.

Starting from your feet, slowly scan up your body, paying attention to any sensations you feel in each area. Don’t judge or try to change these sensations – simply observe them.

You may notice tightness in your neck, warmth in your chest, or tingling in your hands. These are all normal bodily responses and can communicate different emotions or needs. If you feel any tension in a certain area, simply focus on that area, take a deep breath, and move to the next area of your body. 

Continue scanning up to your head, noticing any other sensations you feel along the way. Once you reach your head, take a few deep breaths and slowly open your eyes.

This simple exercise can help cultivate somatic awareness and increase your understanding of your body’s communication (12).

somatic awareness  

There are other somatic awareness techniques, including:

Grounding in the Here-and-Now

Grounding techniques help us stay present and connected to our surroundings. They can be helpful for managing symptoms of anxiety, stress, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (11).

One popular grounding technique is the “5-4-3-2-1” exercise, where you use your senses to name five things you see, four things you feel, three things you hear, two things you smell, and one thing you taste.

See also
8 Somatic Exercises for Distress, with Step-by-Step Instructions

This exercise can bring you back to the present moment and help you feel more grounded in your body.

Grounding can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths or focusing on the feeling of your feet on the ground (6).

In a previous blog on Body Awareness, we discussed the importance of staying grounded in the present moment and connected with our bodies.

Mindful Movement

Mindful movement, such as yoga or dance, can also be a powerful tool for somatic awareness (5).

By focusing on the physical sensations of your movements and breath, you can become more attuned to your body’s cues and needs.

Mindful walking is one of the simplest ways to incorporate mindful movement into your daily routine. As you walk, focus on the feeling of each step, the rhythm of your breath, and any other sensations you may feel in your body. If your mind wanders, try to slowly bring it back to feeling the sensations of your feet taking each step as you walk. 

Find out how stretching can also be used for somatic awareness in our somatic stretching article.

Resourcing and Visualization

Resourcing is a technique used in somatic therapy that involves recalling positive memories, experiences, or places that made you feel ‘safe’. This helps to tune into body sensations that are the opposite of what you experience during distress. 

This can help you build internal resources for coping with difficult emotions or situations. Resourcing techniques should be practiced under the guidance of a trained therapist. 

Resourcing may be particularly helpful for those with a history of trauma, as it can help create feelings of safety and stability in the body (9).

Similarly, visualization uses guided imagery/mental imagery to guide you to a more relaxed state. This technique is often used by trained therapists to help clients deal with symptoms of anxiety. 

Somatic Breathwork

Somatic breathwork involves intentionally breathing in a specific way to promote relaxation and release tension in the body.

Somatic breathwork techniques include:

See also
Somatic Yoga: A Journey to Self-Discovery

4-7-8 Breathing

This technique involves inhaling for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. This can help calm the nervous system and bring a sense of relaxation.

Box Breathing

Box breathing, square breathing, or four-square breathing, involves visualizing a box pattern and taking four equal-sized breaths tracing a square or a box with each breath cycle: inhale for a four-count, hold for a four-count, exhale for a four-count, and hold for a four-count.

This can be a helpful tool for managing stress and anxiety at the moment (4).

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing involves deep, slow breaths that expand the belly. This can help release tension in the diaphragm and promote relaxation (3).

Read more: What Childhood Trauma Do I Have?

somatic awareness  

How Do You Build Somatic Awareness?

You build somatic awareness through practice and intentional focus on your body’s sensations and cues.

Somatic awareness exercises include:

Mindful Movement

Practicing mindful movements is an effective way to build somatic awareness (6). This can include activities such as yoga, tai chi, or simply going for a walk and paying attention to your body’s movements and sensations.

By focusing on the present moment and how your body feels, you can become more attuned to its needs.

  1. Set aside time each day for mindful movement
  2. Pay attention to your breath, posture, and the sensations in your body while moving
  3. Notice any areas of tension or discomfort and try to release them through gentle movements or stretches

Our Somatic Stretches blog includes some simple stretches you can try to release tension and increase body awareness.

Body-Oriented Therapies

Therapies such as massage, acupuncture, somatic yoga, and dance/movement therapy involve working with the body to promote healing and well-being (1). These practices can help you develop a deeper connection with your body and become more aware of its needs.

  1. Explore different types of body-oriented therapies and find one that resonates with you
  2. Be open to the process and allow yourself to fully experience the sensations and emotions that may arise during these sessions

Check out our Somatic Breathwork guide for more detailed instructions and techniques. 

See also
Somatic Breathwork: A Holistic Approach to Well-Being

Body Mapping

Body mapping is a practice that involves drawing a map of your body and labeling areas where you feel different sensations. This can help you become more aware of how your body responds to various stimuli and better understand its needs (7).

  1. Take a few minutes each day to draw a body map and label any sensations you’re feeling in different areas
  2. Use different colors or symbols to represent various sensations, such as tension, discomfort, or warmth. Be creative as possible in expressing these emotions/feelings 
  3. Over time, reflect on your body maps and notice any patterns or changes in how your body responds

Somatic Therapy

You may find it beneficial to work with a therapist who specializes in somatic therapy. This type of therapy focuses on helping you connect with your body and develop a deeper understanding of how your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations are interconnected (13).

  1. Research therapists in your area who offer somatic therapy
  2. Schedule an initial consultation to see if this type of therapy is right for you
  3. Be open and honest with your therapist about your goals and any challenges you may be facing in building somatic awareness

With stress being a constant presence in our lives, taking time to process emotions, decompress and get into the right frame of mind is absolutely crucial. With BetterMe: Meditation & Sleep app your mental health is in good hands! Start using it now !

How Do You Release Feelings of Fear Somatically?

Releasing feelings of fear somatically involves using techniques and practices that help release physical tension and promote relaxation.

It can be as simple as taking deep breaths or engaging in mindful movement, or it may involve seeking professional help through somatic therapy. The key is to find a method that works for you and commit to practicing it regularly.

Tips for releasing feelings of fear somatically include:

  1. Practice deep breathing exercises, such as the 4-7-8 technique or box breathing, whenever you experience feelings of fear, or if you feel overwhelmed or anxious.
  2. Take part in mindful movement, such as somatic yoga, tai chi, or mindful walking, to release tension and promote relaxation in the body.
  3. Use guided meditations or body scans to help you become more aware of any physical sensations related to feelings of fear and learn how to let go of them.
  4. Seek support from a therapist who specializes in somatic therapy to help you work through any deep-rooted or unresolved emotions in a safe and supportive environment.
See also
Somatic Bodywork: A Path to Unleash Your Inner Strength

Remember, releasing feelings of fear somatically is an ongoing process that requires patience and self-compassion. Be gentle with yourself and trust that with practice, you’ll learn to let go of fear and cultivate a deeper connection with your body and mind. 

somatic awareness  

How Do I Manage Somatic Anxiety?

Somatic anxiety refers to the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as muscle tension, stomach aches, or headaches. While in the moment, you’ll need to find ways to manage these symptoms, but it’s also important to address the root cause of the anxiety.

Here are some strategies for managing somatic anxiety when it happens:

  1. Practice somatic breathwork regularly – breathe deeply and slowly to help relax your body and calm your mind
  2. Use progressive muscle relaxation techniques (9), where you tense and relax different muscle groups in your body
  3. Perform some physical activity or exercise to release tension and get your body moving
  4. Practice grounding techniques, such as the “5-4-3-2-1” exercise, to bring yourself back to the present moment

In the long run, you may benefit from exploring the root cause of your anxiety and addressing it through therapy.

A qualified therapist can help you identify triggers and develop coping strategies for managing somatic anxiety. 

Read more: Healing Childhood Trauma Methods That Really Work

FAQs

  • What does a somatic release feel like?

A somatic release may feel different for each individual and can vary based on the technique or practice used. However, it often involves a sense of relaxation and release of tension in the body. Some people may also experience emotional catharsis or a feeling of lightness after a somatic release.

  • Is somatic healing real?

Yes, somatic therapy is a valid form of therapy that focuses on the connection between mind and body. It recognizes that our physical sensations should be explored to improve our mind-body connection and this benefits our overall mental well-being. By addressing these physical experiences through somatic practices, you can heal and find relief from emotional distress (10).

  • Can I do somatic therapy on myself?

You can practice somatic awareness by yourself and become aware of your body’s physical sensations and emotions on your own. However, for somatic therapy, it is recommended to work with a trained therapist who can guide you through the healing process in a safe and supportive environment.

  • Can anxiety be somatic?

Anxiety can manifest both physically and mentally, and somatic anxiety refers to the physical symptoms of anxiety. These can include muscle tension, stomach aches, headaches, or other physical discomforts (8).

However, it’s important to note that not all somatic sensations are related to anxiety. It’s essential to consult a therapist or healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

The Bottom Line

Somatic awareness and therapy can be powerful tools for understanding and managing your physical and emotional states. By regularly checking in with your body, practicing relaxation techniques, and seeking support when needed, you can cultivate a deeper connection with yourself and lead a more fulfilling life.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Body-Centered Interventions for Psychopathological Conditions: A Review (2020,frontiersin.org)
  2. Effect of breathwork on stress and mental health: A meta-analysis of randomised-controlled trials (2023,nih.gov)
  3. Effects of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Health: A Narrative Review (2020.nih.gov)
  4. How Box Breathing Can Help You Destress (2021,clevelandclinic.org)
  5. Increasing Awareness and Acceptance Through Mindfulness and Somatic Education Movements (2016,nih.gov)
  6. Integrative and lifestyle medicine strategies should include Earthing (grounding): Review of research evidence and clinical observations (2020,sciencedirect.com)
  7. Let Us Talk Treatment: Using a Digital Body Map Tool to Examine Treatment Burden and Coping Strategies Among Young People with a Chronic Condition (2023,nih.gov)
  8. Psychiatric and Somatic Markers of Anxiety: Identification and Pharmacologic Treatment (2000,nih.gov)
  9. progressive muscle relaxation (n,d,cci.health.wa.gov.au)
  10. Somatic experiencing – effectiveness and key factors of a body-oriented trauma therapy: a scoping literature review (2021,nih.gov)
  11. Strategies for Improving Employment Outcomes of Veterans Diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (2020,jurispro.com)
  12. The many benefits of mindful body scan meditations (2024,msu.edu)
  13. What is Somatic Awareness? What is Somatic Therapy? (2022,edelsonandassociates.info)
150 million people
have chosen BetterMe

BetterMe created a Better Me

Heidi
I downloaded this app for the summer 28 day challenge. I completed and then put it to the side but now repurchased for the somatics challenge because I’ve been looking for just that! Thank you!

I am not a person who will do the hard…

Olivia
I am not a person who will do the hard gym work, and I really need to let go of negative energy, because of that I do gain weight. Im a beginner in somatic trainings and im excited to see the result, I love this app also because all is in one, meal ideas, weight control, listen to the book to focus psychologically on your health, and also intermittent fasting. Thank you🙏🏻

Im one month in on the somatic plan and…

Lauren
Im one month in on the somatic plan and down 17lbs and 7"off my waist. People keep asking what I'm doing and BetterMe is my answer