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Overcome Challenges with Resilience: Somatic Intelligence

Purpose: Strengthening somatic intelligence may help someone improve their ability to recognize, interpret, and manage signals coming from the nervous system.


Somatic intelligence involves strengthening body-based skills including the breath, touch, movement, and visualization. Having body-based skills may improve a person’s ability to recognize, interpret and manage signals from the nervous system so that a baseline of being relaxed and engaged can quickly be reestablished.


The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is made up of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS controls the fight-flight response and reacts to external stimuli quicker than the higher brain is able to decide how to respond. The PNS controls the relaxation response that is supposed to occur when the ANS senses that a danger is over. When the SNS remains overactive then anxiety, anger, fear, and panic may result and when the PNS remains overactive then a dissociated and withdrawn state may result. 


In modern-day life, psychological stressors such as pressures at work, comparing oneself to others, or criticism from peers may keep the SNS in an overactive mode. When too much boredom or rejection occurs in a short period of time, then the PNS may become dysfunctional and lead to dissociation, depression, and an overall lack of energy. Developing somatic intelligence may allow someone to be resilient by quickly reestablishing an equilibrium between the SNS and PNS when faced with a challenge.


Somatic intelligence is the first subtopic within the WavyFields topic of “Overcome Challenges with Resilience.” After reviewing this subtopic of “Somatic Intelligence,” then proceed to the subtopics of “Emotional Intelligence,” “Relational Within the Self Intelligence,” “Relational with Others Intelligence,” and “Reflective Intelligence.

Practice: These practices may help someone to strengthen somatic intelligence.

Recalling a Memory of Safety or Love


Conditioning: Memories and imagined scenarios can stimulate the brain and body as much as an actual observation. When imagining a moment of feeling safe or loved, the vagus nerve is activated and the nervous system calms down.

Practice: Place one hand on the heart while breathing gently and deeply into the area that the hand is on. Recall a memory of feeling safe or loved. Only a short moment from this memory needs to be recalled. Allow the feeling of safety or love from that moment to spread throughout the body. Remain in this state for up to 30 seconds.


Synchronizing the Breath with a Partner

Conditioning: Inhaling activates the sympathetic nervous system and a feeling of social engagement and connection. Exhaling activates the parasympathetic nervous system and a feeling of well-being. 

Practice:  Find a partner to synchronize breathing with. Have the partner lie on a comfortable surface with their eyes closed. Place one hand on the partner’s forearm and the other on their head. Synchronize breathing by slowly and deeply inhaling and exhaling at the same time. Feel the sensations of the breath and the sense of connection and well-being that is shared with the partner. Continue for up to three minutes and then switch roles with the partner.


Sighing to Calm the Nervous System


Reconditioning: Sighing deeply is a way to calm the nervous system.

Practice: Take several deep sighs when already in a relaxed state to strengthen the vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system. Take several deep sighs when feeling tense to calm the nervous system.


Relieving Tension by Relaxing the Muscles


Reconditioning: Progressive muscle relaxation may help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and relax the entire body. The aim is to tense a muscle group for seven seconds and then relax that muscle group for fifteen seconds in order to train the parasympathetic nervous system to be more dominant.

Practice: For this practice, sit or lie on a comfortable surface. Each muscle group of the body will be tensed starting with the toes and then moving up the body to the head. Breathe in when starting to tense a muscle and breathe out when starting to relax the muscle. Start by tensing the toes of one foot and hold this for seven seconds. Then, relax the toes for fifteen seconds. Repeat with the toes on the other foot. Continue working up the body, going from the foot to the calf, then to the thigh, hips, buttock, pelvis area, torso, abdomen, ribs, spine, fingers, palms, wrists, forearms, elbows, upper arms, shoulders, neck, jaw, throat, lips, cheeks, eyes, nose, and forehead. After tensing and relaxing each muscle group, end the practice with a deep sigh and one minute of rest and reflection.


Creating a Library of Peaceful Memories


Deconditioning: A library of peaceful memories can be created to draw from when in need of feeling calm.

Practice: Discover a location that feels calming. Once in the location, soak in the surroundings and consciously commit to remembering how it feels to be at this location. While still at the location, close the eyes and try to recall the memory. If the memory is fuzzy then spend more time absorbing the scenery and try again. Leave the location once ready and practice recalling the peaceful memory whenever feeling out of equilibrium.


Noticing Emotions in the Body


Deconditioning: Emotions are stored in the body as physical sensations. Oftentimes, people do not think to focus on these physical sensations and instead focus attention on only the mental component of the emotion. This practice will help emotions move through the body in a kind and compassionate way.

Practice: Find a comfortable position, close the eyes, and take three deep and slow breaths. Be kind and identify what is causing the emotional distress, allow the cause to come into awareness, and then give a label to each emotion, such as “that’s fear” or “that’s sadness.” Shift attention away from the mental component and onto the physical sensations in the body. Be kind, and label each sensation, such as “that’s tension” or “that’s pressure.” Find the location on the body where a sensation was labeled most strongly. Focus awareness on only one location at a time. In a compassionate way, imagine that the muscles holding the sensation are beginning to soften. While imagining the muscles softening, also provide calming words, such as “may I be kind to myself in this moment” or “may I accept these sensations exactly as they are.” Allow the sensations to be there and come and go as they please, and repeat the mantra, “soften, soothe, allow.”

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