919 / 1096 : How do you pay attention? Do you look at the world around you…focusing on everything that is happening external to you? What about paying attention to what is happening internally?
The parts of our brains that are the newest , evolutionariliy speaking, are great at focusing on external information. But there are older parts of our brains designed to observe our internal world. This ability to attend to your inner body experience is called interoceptive awareness.
Being aware of our internal sensory experience …our internal life…allows us to be aware when we are uncomfortable, tired, stressed. Without that knowledge, we are at a disadvantage to attend to our self care. This tuning into our bodies, interoceptive awareness, actually turns out to be really important. Many illness anxiety, depression, GI disorders, eating disorders, diseases of disembodiment, chronic pain syndromes, addiction, etc are related to a lack of interoceptive awareness. It simply increases your resilience to stressful events.
So, imagine my surprise when I realized I suck at it. In hindsight that comes as no surprise...I mean as nurses we hold our bladders, ignore our bodies signals to eat or rest...and we just keep ploughing away at life.
The solution to this is to spend more time cultivating the ability to pay attention to yourself; to increase the number of times I do things mindfully. So, I wash my hands and am in awe at the feelings.. Slippery, cold, satin coursing over my hands…I can’t feel the cold as much on my palm, but I can feel it more to the back of my hand…small patches of turbulent flow where the bubbles sit. Who knew washing your hands was so information heavy.