Your body is a portal to essential knowledge.

Your body is your ever present home on earth and houses a wealth of information you can tap into anytime. Yet no one teaches you how to use this innate somatic knowledge.

The field of psychotherapy, especially trauma therapy, is In the midst of a mini revolution as somatic awareness is now recognized as a crucial part of healing and well-being.

Just like your emotions, even the ones you don’t enjoy, bodily sensations are messengers to help you navigate life, understand yourself and make joy-enhancing decisions. The trick is to tune in.

Since most people have not been trained in how to do this, it’s helpful to have a map.

It takes skill to understand and utilize the body’s messages. One of the best ways to do that is with something called Felt Sense. This technique helps you figure out what the body is telling you, as well as allowing you to anchor in awareness, and re-ground in the present moment.

Simply put, your felt sense refers to the physical characteristics, qualities, and properties of an emotion.

Once upon a time, some wonderful person, or people, taught you how to read. Without that skill the world would be a very different place. Of course, you experience physical feelings without needing a roadmap, but finding the right words to describe them can be daunting. Here is a primer of words and concepts to assist you in navigating somatic sensations for greater self-awareness.

At first, cultivating felt sense awareness will feel awkward and forced. That’s natural. In time, it will become second nature to use this new vocabulary as a way of exploring what’s true for you in any given moment.

Often, you’ll notice the emotion before you’re aware of its physical manifestations, even though the physical sensations typically precede your emotional awareness. It’s simply that you have not been taught to focus on your body, let alone develop a lexicon to describe what you feel. Furthermore, when the body reacts strongly to something with pain or discomfort, it’s natural to think an ibuprofen will solve the problem and dismiss that inner cache of information.

The following is a list of words to help you think about your body’s sensations in new ways.

Achy FrozenRaw
Airy FullReleasing
Rolling
Alive FuzzyShaky
Bloated Goose BumpySharp
Blocked GurglingShimmering
Breathless HardShivery
Brittle HeavyShudder
Bubbly Hollow
Hot
Silky
BurningIcySmooth
Buzzing
Bruised
IntenseSoft
Sore
Chilled Icy
Itchy
Spacious
ClammyJaggedSpacious Breathing
Closed 
Clenched
JitterySpasming
Spinning
Cold JumblySticky
CongestedJumpyStationary
Still
ConstrictedKnottedStretchy
Constricted BreathingLightStringy
ContractedLimpStrong
CoolLooseSuffocating
CozyMoving
Nauseous
Sweaty
CrampedNumbTender
Damp
Dense
OpenTense
Dizzy
Dry
ParalyzedThick
DullPoundingThrobbing
ElasticPressureTickly
ElectricPricklyTight
EmptyPuffyTightness of skin
EnergizedPulledTingling
ExpandingPulsingTrembling
FaintQuakingTwitchy
Flaccid
Fluid
QuietVibrating
FlushedQuiveringWarm
FlutteryRadiatingWeak 
Free
Frantic
RaggedWobbly

By familiarizing yourself with this list you create a wider somatic vocabulary.

The next time you notice an emotion, try this experiment:

Notice any tightness, tension, or heaviness in your body and home in on the physical sensations that accompany it. Scan the above list to see if any other feeling words could describe your experience. This helps you anchor into your felt sense and feel more grounded in your body. As emotions can be quite squirrelly, somatic awareness is a useful tool to help you feel safer in the midst of strong, even disturbing, feelings.

You might ask yourself: How does this feeling sit in my body right now?

Can you let the breath touch that soreness, tightness, tension, etc.?

See if you can allow the feeling be there without trying to change or fix it.

Try softening around it.

Does the feeling spread?

Does it evoke any images or memories?

Does it stay the same or change as you investigate it?

With curiosity, enter the physical feeling, meander within it and notice any changes from simply exploring sensation.

With this new sense of connection, compassion, and acceptance, how do you feel towards this emotion now?

Let yourself experience whatever comes up in your body as energy, while actively resisting the urge to tell yourself a story about it, demonizing yourself or anyone else.

Then, give that feeling plenty of breathing room. Let it expand and radiate and see what happens.

A focused, slow body scan meditation, like those offered on the free Insight Timer app, is another helpful way to get into your body and away from repetitive thoughts or overwhelming feelings.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

Nicole Urdang

Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM is a Holistic Psychotherapist in Buffalo, NY. She holds a New York state license in mental health counseling and a doctorate in homeopathic medicine from the British Institute of Homeopathy.