Listen to your body by connecting with sensations.

Guest post from Psych Central’s Margarita Tartakovsky, MS.

listen to your body

 A pivotal part of building a more positive body image and practicing compassionate self-care is listening to our bodies.

Our bodies speak to us through sensations, according to psychotherapist Andrea Brandt, Ph.D, MFT, in her book Mindful Anger: A Pathway to Emotional Freedom.

Brandt defines sensations as “the perception of stimuli through the senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch)” and “the physical feeling that results when senses are stimulated (e.g., warmth) or when there is a change inside the body (e.g., cramping).”

 For instance, they may tell us: “I’m uncomfortable” or “I’m too warm” or “I’m relaxed.”

Sensations are important because they connect us to our immediate needs. For instance, if you’re uncomfortable, you can respond to your body by helping it become comfortable.

That discomfort may arise from tension in your hands, so you massage them. It might arise from hunger, so you eat lunch. It might arise from being too hot, so you take off your sweater or turn on the AC.

Sensations also connect us to our emotions — though they’re not the same. According to Brandt, there’s a fine but significant distinction between sensations and emotions. Sensations are “physical feelings and responses,” whereas emotions are “states of consciousness.”

For instance, excitement is an emotion, while breathlessness is a sensation. Disgust is an emotion, while cringing is a sensation. Anger is an emotion, while throbbing temples and a racing heart are sensations.

I know that many of us are disconnected from our physical sensations and emotions. We might not think to pay attention. We might intentionally ignore those signals. We might not know how to listen.