Interoception


David Robson, an award winning science writer, author and contributor to The Guardian, writes that “signals sent from our internal organs to the brain play a major role in regulating emotions and fending off anxiety and depression“. Our brains perception of our body’s state, which are transmitted by body organs are assessed by a process called Interoception.

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.

– Prof Manos Tsakiris, a psychologist at Royal Holloway, University of London (source: The Guardian)

Dr Helen Weng at the University of California San Francisco, told The Guardian:

Researchers and clinicians are recognising 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.

The Guardian writes, quoting Prof Hugo Critchey that those who’re deconditioned from a lack of exercise, then they more likely to experience anxiety related symptoms. “Your heart will race more when you experience challenges – be it physical or emotional.” On the other hand, as we get fitter, our organs like the heart become more adept at dealing with strain, our body will show a more resilient response to changing circumstances – changes that could spill over into our emotional wellbeing.

Caroline Williams, a science writer and author of recent book Move! (Profile, 2021) explores the many ways that physical exercise can benefit the mind.

“Interoceptive feedback from the muscles can tell you something, unconsciously, about what you can achieve in the world. After strength training, your body feels that it can cope, and so, on some level, you feel a bit more in control of life.”

Robinson concludes “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.”