Have you ever said that you had “cold feet”, “a bowel reaction” or “a chill down the back”? You probably haven’t thought about it, but these stereotypes are more true than you might think. Emotional body mapping can show you why.
Just as anxiety and depression can cause physical symptoms, emotions can feel like they are building up in one or more parts of your body. Feelings are our primary way of interacting with the world, but many of us don’t pause and puzzle out how they affect us.
If you’ve ever had trouble naming an emotion, understanding the concept of physical feelings and where they are located can help you feel more in tune with your body.
Body mapping might not be a specific solution for everyone, but if you̵
You may have heard of the Emotion Wheel, which allows you to categorize emotions to better understand what you are feeling. Emotional body mapping is another option, and like the bike, its effectiveness depends on the person.
Body mapping research has been limited so far. Enrico Glerean, the computer and statistics expert on two body mapping studies, says the researchers are “collecting more data, but experiments are still ongoing so it is too early for preliminary results”.
So, think of the body map as a tool that, like medication, is not suitable for everyone. It’s just part of a larger kit that teaches you how to communicate with your body.
Based on a 2014 study by Glerean and his colleagues, these are the 13 emotions and the corresponding body parts that activate (or do not activate) them. As on a heat map, increased activity corresponds to warmer colors (red, orange, yellow), while decreased reactions correspond to cooler colors (blue, green, indigo).
Finding these cards exactly match your feelings can help you understand metaphysical changes and how emotions affect your well-being.
How did you test that?
To create these body maps, the researchers hypothesized that different emotions correspond to different physical reactions. They asked 701 people to color the regions in which they felt increasing or decreasing activity when they responded to different stimuli on a body silhouette.
The stimuli to which they were exposed were similar to those we encounter in real life: excerpts from films, conversations and surprising facial expressions. The results showed that for the participant pool, different emotions consistently influenced similar areas of the body.
A 2018 study by the same researchers found that the intensity of emotions was directly related to the intensity of mental and physical sensations. In other words, the stronger the feeling in your body, the stronger the feeling in your mind.
This led her to believe that feelings can be categorized as follows:
- negative (uncomfortable), such as anger, fear, fear and shame
- positive (pleasant), like happiness, love and pride
Very few emotions, like surprises, are simply neutral.
The participants also saw that pleasant and controllable states were more common than uncomfortable and uncontrollable ones. If you ever feel that anxiety or depression is overwhelming you, you may understand the feeling of being out of control.
“Sometimes they are so subtle that it takes time to build the vocabulary to describe them,” says Tanmaya George, a certified somatic experience practitioner. In order to physically feel and name an emotion, you need to slow down. For this, she recommends a mindful body scan.
“Feeling or fear can be frozen in so that we experience numbness instead of sensation,” she says. “This is associated with shock, and when we begin to heal, the shock melts and the underlying sensations come to the surface.”
Tuning in to your body and paying attention to where you experience heightened sensations is the best way to localize a feeling. George tells her clients to focus on grounding their bodies. If you find yourself in a black hole of desperation, use their instructions to get you back on track:
- Gently move your feet and hands and rub them against a surface to feel your extremities, then connect with how that feels.
- Look for calming shapes or objects and take some time to soak in the experience of looking. How does that make you feel?
- What sensations develop when you perceive smell, shape, color and sound?
- Gently orient yourself in the room and look at everything as if you were seeing it for the first time.
- Take your focus away from the discomfort. You can also apply a calming touch to the area you are uncomfortable with and feel the warmth of your hand.
Hilary Jacobs Hendel, licensed clinical social worker and author of It’s not always depression, also has tips on when an emotion is dominating a certain part of your body, such as: B. Anxiety in your stomach. She suggests decreasing stimulation by going into a dark room (if possible) and adjusting to your stomach by deep abdominal breathing.
“Deep abdominal breathing stimulates the vagus nerve,” says Hendel. “The vagus nerve is the nerve that emotions trigger and that flows through every organ in the body. When we take a deep breath, it stimulates the calming part of the vagus nerve. With five or six breaths you will see the change. ”
“Once you do this deep breathing and approach it with curiosity, compassion, and kindness, you want to try to identify and name any emotions that arise and what triggers you.”
Grounding yourself is another helpful tip when you are feeling heightened emotions in your body. “When you put your feet on the ground, your brain knows that there is ground below you. It sounds so simple, but these are things that calm the brain, ”says Hendel.
“The thing about emotions is that you have to experience them,” says Hendel. “You can’t think of an emotion.”
The connection of mind and body is an integral part of your overall wellbeing. According to Hendel, ignoring, burying, or blocking your emotions can lead to more illnesses. For example, when your mind-body connection is weak, you can neglect your emotional and / or physical health.
Or you are ashamed of emotions like depression. In return, Hendel would like to emphasize that nothing is wrong with you. Sometimes your surroundings can be harmful and cause you to internalize a “literal, bad physical feeling”. Or, like fear, these feelings of not feeling well enough can physically manifest in your body.
Fortunately, Hendel also says that demystifying emotions can help people stop being overwhelmed by them. According to the 2014 study mentioned earlier, identifying emotional changes can help us understand emotional processing and identify mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
This body map should not be used in place of a psychologist. Like an emotion wheel, the body depicts an innovative concept to identify emotions, especially in difficult times. And as is the case with an emotion wheel, what sounds right to you may mean slightly different to someone else.
For example, you might be happy because you feel optimistic, which is very different from feeling satisfied or relaxed. In the same way, fear could make you run under the covers or lie down.
Before creating your mental health toolkit, it is a good idea to speak to a professional. Even if you believe somatic therapy is right for you, a psychotherapist can help you gain a basic understanding of your mental health first. They will also help you use all of the tools, from breathing to body mapping, together.
Once you have the basics in place, finding a body-oriented or somatic therapist is crucial, according to George. “In somatic therapy, we no longer concentrate on analyzing feelings and emotions, but instead encourage clients to feel them in the body. By moving away from naming the feeling and instead associating it with a sensation, we are giving space to the perception that it is actually an energy, and this in turn enables that energy to be released through the body. ”
Juliana Ukiomogbe is a freelance writer specializing in culture, wellness, books and films. You can follow her on Twitter.