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greater body awareness tied to sensitivity to negative emotions

People with higher levels of body awareness may experience more feelings of anxiety and other negative emotions. Results of a small study published in Nature Neuroscience (2004; 7 [2],102–3) showed that subjects who were more aware of their own heart rate levels also felt more anxiety than subjects who lacked awareness of their own physical states.

Researchers asked participants connected to brain scan machines to identify whether their heart rate was in sync with a series of tones. People able to accurately report their heart rate also experienced more activity in the right anterior insular cortex of the brain and appeared to have more nerve cells in that area of the brain. Researchers questioned participants about their daily experiences with positive and negative emotions. The same people who were able to accurately report their heart rate also reported more symptoms of depression, anxiety and other negative emotions.

The purpose of this research was
to improve understanding of the
connection between emotions and
the body’s physiologic state. The researchers suggested that if people
with anxiety disorders do have a stronger understanding of their
physiologic state, then behavioral therapies, such as relaxation techniques, may play an important role
in managing these emotions.

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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