• Dr. Nihan

How to Become Your Best Self In 2022? Let's Talk About Interoception!

Updated: Apr 19

I can hear that currently some of you are saying:

- Interoception? I have never encountered that word!

Don’t worry, you will know about interoception when you finish reading this article. Further, you will learn how to improve it!

I am the author of “The Interoceptive Mind: How to Become Your Most Effective Self by Improving Your Interoception and Microbiome” book. I love talking about science, microbiology, and neuroscience to translate the information into an everyday language! So, if you are ready, you will learn something new today!

Believe it or not, although we’ve learned only five sensory systems at school, science has already discovered the eighth one! The well-known first five are hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch. Then it was accepted that we have a vestibular system responsible for our balance and maintaining the posture. The seventh is the proprioceptive system, which gives us a sense of body awareness and detects or controls the force and pressure.

The eighth system, interoception, is a silent conversation between our body and us. For example, when our body needs energy, we feel hungry; when our bladder is full, we need to go to the bathroom; when we hurt our finger, we feel pain, right? These messages between the body and our feelings are called interoceptive senses. So basically, interoception can be defined as “the process by which the nervous system senses and integrates information about the inner state of the body.”

So okay, nice to meet you – interoception! But what is its importance? How can we realize our interoceptive senses better and improve them? What are some of the interoceptive diseases or disorders? If we have lived until now without knowing about interoception, can’t we continue without understanding or using it better?

Well, starting from the last question - for sure you can continue your life as you have been doing for years. But if you want to become your most effective self and master the hidden conversation within your body, use it immediately and free, teach your kids and family to be their best selves, at least you need to know that you are capable of doing it!

What is the importance of interoception?

The easiest way to understand the importance of interoception is to think about the lack of it. So now we are welcoming two new words here. Alexithymia and alexisomia. Alexithymia is the difficulty identifying and describing our emotions. Alexisomia is having problems identifying and explaining, but not feelings – our sensations such as touch, pain, temperature, etc.

Think about having difficulty identifying and/or verbalizing your feelings! This would put you in a struggle with managing your emotions. Thus, interoception allows us to feel our emotions, and with regulated emotions that we are aware of, we establish much better social connections. Also, think that you do not recognize the pain, heat, or touch for a minute! Life would be terrible at some point, right?

If you want to make a quick evaluation to check your alexithymia level, you can click here! This is a questionnaire done by Jason Thompson, who intended to have a free alexithymia questionnaire available for the community. So, the importance of interoception is equal to the extent of hearing, sensing, and understanding ourselves and our environment!

How can we realize our interoceptive senses better and improve them?

To improve your interoceptive senses, you have several options that you can pay attention to and practice. First, the main goal is a healthy connection to your bodily sensations. Once the best level of connection is provided, you will recognize that you are calmer, more stress-free, and more active in your daily life and stick to your good habits.

The primary activities for a better interoception are:

- Mindfulness

- Meditation

- Breathing for interoception

- Yoga and pilates for interoception

You can also help your kids and/or students by leading them with the proper bodily activities to teach how they can sense themselves better.

The scientists showed that a particular part of our brain, called the insula, is affected positively during any kind of meditation and mindfulness (Gibson et al., 2019; Hölzel et al., 2011). The insula is the crucial area of the brain for interoception. It is involved in the emotional process in love, addiction, pain, pleasure, taste, and much more by facilitating our concept of self-awareness. If our insula is injured, we cannot recognize our emotions which would also cause an impaired interoceptive ability. Therefore, we need to keep our insula active, healthy, and strong, and the above-listed activities are an excellent way to proceed!

What are some of the interoceptive diseases or disorders?

After science started to work more about interoception, we learned more about it. Today, many diseases and disorders are known to be related to interoception.

- Anxiety and depression

- Chronic pain

- Migraine

- Alcohol and substance disorder

- Eating disorders

- Autism spectrum conditions

- Sensory processing disorders

The good news is you can deal with them better by focusing on and improving your interoceptive senses!

Please take some time and read more about interoception. It is a vast topic that is still foreign to most people. But I genuinely believe that it will be much more prevalent in a couple of years, maybe as much as probiotics!

I remember the days clearly, only ten years ago, while I was working with probiotics, most medical doctors and pharmacists had no idea about probiotics. And I knew that in just a couple of years, it would gain popularity. Now, I think all of us know what probiotics are and their essential benefits, at least.

At that point, I need to add that probiotics and fermented foods are another great way to keep your interoceptive senses healthy with a fantastic relation of your gut to your brain and immune system.

It is interoception’s turn to be famous like probiotics, as it deserves! And I am glad that now you know (more) about interoception, how to help yourself with easy and free activities and create your best self by reading this article!

For any question about the interoception, activities mentioned earlier, and probiotics, I am just a message away! Of course, you can also read my book, The Interoceptive Mind, for more detail on the topic.

- Gibson, J. (2019). Mindfulness, interoception, and the body: A contemporary perspective. Frontiers in psychology. 10:2012.

- Hölzel, B., Lazar, S., Gard, T., Schuman-Olivier, Z., Vago, D., Ott, U. (2011). How does mindfulness meditation work? Proposing mechanisms of action from a conceptual and neural perspective. Perspective Psychology Science. 6:537–559.

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