Mindfully Reconnect with Your Body

“To come to our senses, both literally and metaphorically, on the big scale as a species and on the smaller scale as a single human being, we first need to return to the body, the locus within which the biological senses and what we call the mind arise.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

A mindful stance towards life involves welcoming experience and accepting reality just as it is, not as we would like it to be.  Once we let go of our attachment to needing or wanting things to be different, we ease a great deal of suffering.  Many people experience extreme discomfort and disconnection from their physical selves.  This sense of disconnection can lead to self-loathing, dissociative experiences, and experiential unawareness.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy & Bodily Sensations

According to “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy,” every thought, feeling, and physical sensation that we experience is accompanied by underlying felt meanings.  These felt meanings are expressed and experienced through bodily sensations.  When we choose to be distanced or disconnected from our physical experience, we miss out on the ability to tap into this intuitive sense.

In order to re-learn the natural ability to feel our experience, we must practice perceiving the world through our senses: hearing, smelling, touching, tasting, seeing, and the kinesthetic sense of knowing in your body.  When we learn how to tap into our senses and become mindfully attuned to bodily sensations, our ability to intuitively know how we are feeling is enriched.

Many people have a pattern of retreating from their felt experience.  There many be an underlying belief that it is somehow “safer” to think about emotions rather than experience them in the body.  If this sounds like you, the first step towards reconnecting with your natural felt experience is to use the technique of a body scan to mindfully notice what places in your body are particularly tense or holding onto painful emotions.

Becoming Fully Present in Your Body

The body can be thought of as a “window into the mind.”  When we are open to being fully present in our bodies, we are willing to allow our bodies to assist us in healing emotional processes.  If this sounds far-fetched to you, ask yourself where your resistance towards being physically present and connected to yourself comes from.  Many people go through the motions of the day and steadily move towards their chosen goals, but are more than willing to do all of this without “checking in” with their physical selves.  What do you imagine the long-term toll of this disconnection between body and soul is?

Some people feel resistant to the idea of “checking in” and reconnecting with their physical selves out of fear.  This a natural experience that you don’t need to push away or deny – let it be.  If mindfully connecting with your physical self feels threatening or uncomfortable, this is often an important signal that it is especially important for you to do this.  We often resist the things that could be most healing and beneficial to us.

Bodily Sensations & Depression

Crane (2009) discusses the way in which the body is “part of the feedback loop that maintains depression.”  Some of the physical sensations that often accompany depression (fatigue, heaviness, muscle tightness) often serve to perpetuate the psychological experience of depression.  You can choose to use your body as an ally. Change your physical posture to an upright and dignified position.  Practice moving your body into a grounded, open, and relaxed position.

These ideas of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy are reminiscent of aspects of dialectical behavior therapy, which encourage the use of opposite action to change emotional states.  The idea is that if you are feeling depressed, you are likely acting depressed and thinking like a depressed person.  If you truly want to feel differently, you must begin to act and think differently.  Our emotional states will follow changes in thinking and behavior.

What ways of mindfully noticing and reconnecting with your physical self can you identify?  Do you have a tendency to “feel present” in your body most of the time, or do you notice a pattern of denying or numbing your felt experience?  Your body is your ally if you will allow it to be.

If you are feeling anxious, depressed, angry, or fearful and you do not want to feel this way, then by all means, stop acting like an anxious, depressed, angry, or fearful person.  This is not invalidating your emotion experience – a mindful stance involves fully accepting whatever emotions you are experiencing as valid.  The idea is that if you want to change your emotions, you must change your behaviors.  Act differently, think differently, and you will feel differently.  It is surprisingly simple.

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Crane, R. (2009). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. New York, NY: Routledge.

Featured image: Practice Yoga, Be Healthy! by VinothChandar / CC BY 2.0

About Laura K. Schenck, Ph.D., LPC

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado. Some of my academic interests include: Dialectical Behavior Therapy, mindfulness, stress reduction, work/life balance, mood disorders, identity development, supervision & training, and self-care.


  1. Amy Looper on July 14, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Hi Laura!

    What wonderful posts you’ve been creating! While I have not posted frequent comments, I do look forward to receiving notice and scan-reading your posts. Awesome! It never fails that you pose some point for me to ponder in a meaningful way. I just wanted to send you a quick shout out of appreciation for your time to craft such thoughtful and inspiring articles!



    • Laura on July 15, 2011 at 11:49 am

      Amy – I’m so glad to hear that you have been enjoying my posts. I’m happy to hear that they result in you pondering different points in meaningful ways. If there is ever a specific topic of interest to you, please let me know. Thank you for your comment!

  2. Justin on November 2, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Hey I have a specific topic of interest for you.
    By the way, this passage is very encouraging for me and also motivating.

    But I’ve been experiencing/suffering from something called depersonalization “disorder”. I don’t like to use the word disorder because it really isn’t one and I don’t know if you’ve heard of it but it’s like a 24/7 out of body experience. I’ve been dealing with it hard-core since about January of this year. There are a lot of theories and stuff that people think causes this feeling of numbness and a dream-like state of mind but I think it may be something spiritual, I don’t know. But this feeling of detachment is a little frightening for me especially when I look in the mirror. I see that it’s me and recognize that it’s me but I don’t FEEL that it’s me. These sensations also come along with anxiety and extreme uneasiness at times and I’ve just started practicing grounding myself outside with the earth. I just want to know your standpoint because you seem to be very knowledgeable.

    Any information would be great! Thanks.

    • Laura on November 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm

      Justin – I’m glad to hear that this article on mindfully reconnecting with your body was encouraging and motivating for you. I am sorry to hear about your struggle with experiencing a sense of detachment from your body. Depersonalization disorder is often described as a sense of things “seeming unreal” and dreamlike. You mentioned that this experience has intensified since January of this year – do you notice other events that were occurring in your life around that time? Sometimes it can be helpful to reflect back on what was happening in our lives during times when we begin to experience anxiety or distressing symptoms.

      I can imagine that this could certainly be a frightening experiencing for you. I can also imagine how you may be experiencing these sensations as somehow spiritual in nature as well. I hear you saying that you are able to recognize your image as being you in the mirror, yet inside it simply does not feel like it is you. It sounds like accompanying anxiety and extreme uneasiness can make this feel quite unsettling for you. It sounds like you have found a useful coping mechanism in actively grounding yourself outside with the earth.

      You may be interested to read more about “grounding techniques” that are often used with people who have experiences similar to that which you are describing. Grounding techniques generally involve bringing your conscious awareness back to the present moment and reconnecting with your physical form through the senses. This can be accomplished through doing things like holding a cold piece of ice and focusing on the cold sensation on your skin or tasting something that has a very strong taste, like a lemon. These techniques are often used to help break dissociation.

      If you continue to experience the anxiety and distress that you are describing, I hope that you will consider consulting with a mental health professional to determine what form of treatment might be most helpful for you. Thank you for your comment and for visiting my blog.

      • Justin on November 8, 2011 at 5:11 pm

        Thanks for understanding my situation!
        Sometimes I feel so alone even though there is an entire forum with those dealing with the same issue I am and even though my mother and brother have been by my side throughout this entire process.

        But the only thing I can think of that made me stressful & anxious is graduating high school. I remember experiencing a dream-like state the closer graduation got & once I had to start registering for college. My 1st year in college was last fall & I got through my first semester smoothly then 2nd semester comes around & these feelings/symptoms started to get worse. I tried suffering through them & ignoring them but they just got worse so I had to withdraw from my classes because it was SO hard for me to concentrate & focus in school. I’m just now putting my best foot forward & being proactive on my road to recovery & the grounding techniques seem to make a difference so I’ll probably just have to be patient & let that bring my mind down from its elevated state.

        Thanks so much for replying and for your advice!

  3. Amanda on June 23, 2012 at 7:59 am

    Another fabulous article, thanks so much!



    • Laura on June 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm

      Amanda – I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed this article on mindfully reconnecting with your body. It is easy to develop a sense of disconnection from our physical selves, particularly during times of stress or when operating “mindlessly.” Mindfulness enables us to slow down and notice sensations occurring in the present moment that ultimately help to foster a greater sense of connection to ourselves. Thanks for your comment!

  4. […] [5] Crane, R. (2009). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. New York, NY: Routledge http://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/health-and-wellness/mindfully-reconnect-with-your-body […]

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