The Powerful Connection between Body and Mind: Introduction to Somatic Psychotherapy and Mindfulness Meditation

Published on 1 November 2023 at 19:28

The body, brain and mind are intricately connected, and understanding this relationship can
greatly impact our overall well-being. In this article, I explore the valuable approaches of
somatic psychotherapy and mindfulness meditation in promoting holistic health. These
techniques, based on the work of renowned authors and practitioners, bridge the gap between body, brain and mind, offering practical exercises for personal experience.

Somatic Psychotherapy
Somatic psychotherapy acknowledges the neuroscientific fact that body and brain physiology
and the mind are intertwined (Levine, 2015; Van der Kolk, 2014). It recognizes that our
thoughts, emotions, and memories are not confined to the mind alone, but are also stored and expressed in our bodies and nervous systems. Drawing on research on the hierarchy between emotion, cognition, and behaviour this approach emphasizes the significant impact our automatic biological responses have on our emotional and physiological regulation and how this affects our cognition, emotion, and behaviour (Selvam, 2022). Understanding the role of the autonomic nervous system plays in trauma, these therapies address difficulties through the concept of titration to avoid setbacks or re-traumatization. As Payne, Levine & CraneGodreau (2015, p. 10) write, “trauma must be approached very slowly, “drop by drop,” so as to avoid unnecessary distress, flooding and potential re-traumatization.”.

Somatic psychotherapy has a great focus on identifying and building resources and promoting
resiliency in individuals as it explains that getting in touch with a sense of embodied inner
safety is a crucial first step towards restoration of balance in the nervous system, or ‘trauma
healing’ (Porges, 2017; Levine, 2015). Distinction between abstract mental states of positive
feelings and embodied feeling states is important, and as such slowing down and taking time
to feel into, and abide in, the positive sensations is crucial as this allows the nervous system
to begin to regulate and the body to experience safety again.
Trauma, which in this definition is any event that overwhelms our capacity to cope with life
and which leaves lasting impacts on our physical, emotional, and mental well-being, is a core
area of focus in somatic psychotherapy. Symptoms such as chronic back issues, migraines,
chronic anxiety, anger, and depression have been addressed through these approaches (Maté,
2022; Selvam, 2022; Levine, 2015; Van der Kolk, 2014).

Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation, a practice that emphasizes non-judgmental attention to our
experiences, can play a crucial role in promoting our well-being. By focusing on the breath,
bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions, mindfulness meditation trains the mind to be
present and aware, free from being entangled in the drama and pain of automatic thoughts,
emotions, and judgments (Kornfield, 2012; Epstein, 1996). These practices also encourage
the questioning of thoughts and beliefs, enabling individuals to move towards inner freedom
from feeling stuck and/or rigid (Katie, 2018; Smernoff, Mitnik, Kolodner, Lev-Ari, 2015).
Research supports the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation in managing stress, anxiety,
and chronic pain (Kabatt-Zinn, 2017). By cultivating awareness of thoughts and emotions and
responding to stressors in a calm and centred manner, one may develop their capacity for
compassion towards themselves and others. Mindfulness meditation can also help regulate
emotions by observing and accepting thoughts and feelings without judgments or immediate
reactions. Additionally, by observing thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations without
judgment, individuals may gain greater insight into their behaviours and thought patterns,
fostering personal growth and development (Kornfield, 2012; Epstein, 1996). Furthermore,
mindfulness meditation has shown to produce physical health benefits such as reducing blood pressure and improving sleep quality (Kabatt-Zinn, 2017).

The Wisdom of the Body
Our bodies are not mere vessels, and they hold invaluable information and wisdom that is
deeply intertwined with our emotions, thinking, and intuition (Selvam, 2022; Levine, 2015).
Our nervous systems and bodies store the history of our experiences, including emotions,
memories, and traumas. The autonomic nervous system, which oversees our survival
responses of fight, flight, or freeze, plays a crucial role in our sense of well-being. Somatic
psychotherapy and mindfulness meditation can guide individuals in learning about their
triggers, discharging or transforming stuck survival energy, and regulating their nervous
systems and emotions with more skill and tact. Paying attention to sensations, feelings, emotions, images, thoughts, memories, and physical reactions allows for insights into emotional and psychological well-being (Kabatt-Zinn, 2017; Kornfield, 2012; Epstein, 1996).

For instance, overwhelming anger may be traced back to an unresolved fight response, that in
everyday language could be thought of as bottled-up anger, that keeps interfering with our
lives. If we have learned to suppress our fight/anger it may over time lead to symptoms such
as chronic irritability, frustration or overwhelming and inappropriate (to the situation) levels
of anger. As few examples, road rage, sarcasm/passive aggressiveness, chronic irritation of
how someone else does not know how to wash the dishes the right way, or chronic frustration
about how the neighbour's cat does not know how to keep away from my lawn.

By skilfully cultivating a relationship with our bodies and emotions, we can enhance
resilience, regulation, and pleasure, leading to a more positive and fulfilling life (Van der
Kolk, 2014). Slowing down and feeling safe are essential factors in this process. By learning
to find and hang out with our pleasurable, strong, calm, steady, or neutral sensations in our
bodies, we are on our way to mastery over our sometimes-chaotic feeling inner environments
(Levine, 2015).

Taking Control of Our Well-being
Realizing that more of our health and well-being is within our control than we might be
customed to believe may empower us to make positive changes in our lives. This applies to
our physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being (Kabatt-Zinn, 2017; Levine,
2015; Van der Kolk, 2014; Josipovic, Dinstein, Weber, & Heeger, 2012; Kornfield, 2012;
Epstein, 1996). It might be good to keep in mind that the state of our wellness and health
directly affects our families and communities and through personal growth and work on self,
we automatically contribute to the well-being of everything in our environment (Maté, 2022).

Understanding the interconnectedness of the body, brain and mind is crucial for promoting
overall well-being. Somatic psychotherapy and mindfulness meditation offer valuable
approaches in this regard. Somatic psychotherapy addresses the impact of biology on
emotional and physiological regulation, by focusing on restoration of balance and building
resources. Mindfulness meditation cultivates present-moment awareness, regulates emotions, and promotes personal growth. By deepening our relationship with our bodies and emotions, we experience increased resilience, regulation, and pleasure, ultimately contributing to a more positive and fulfilling life.




Epstein, Mark (1996): Thoughts without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist
Josipovic Zoran, Dinstein Ilan, Weber Jochen, & Heeger David J, (2012), Influence of
meditation on anti-correlated networks in the brain, doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2011.00183
Kabat-Zinn, Jon (2017), Wherever You Go, There You Are
Katie, Byron (2018) A Mind at Home with Itself
Kornfield, Jack, (2012), Living Dharma: Teachings and Meditation Instructions from Twelve
Theravada Masters
Levine, Peter, (2015), In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores
Maté, Gabor, (2022), T𝐡e M𝐲𝐭h of No𝐫𝐦al: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture
Payne Peter, Levine Peter A, & Crane-Godreau Mardi A, (2015), Somatic experiencing:
using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy, doi:
Porges, Stephen, (2017), The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative
Power of Feeling Safe
Selvam, Raja, (2022), The Practice of Embodying Emotions: A Guide for Improving
Cognitive, Emotional, and Behavioral Outcomes
Smernoff Erik, Mitnik Inbal, Kolodner Ken, & Lev-Ari Shahar, (2015), The effects of "The
Work" meditation (Byron Katie) on psychological symptoms and quality of life--a pilot
clinical study, doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2014.10.003
Van der Kolk, Bessel, (2014), The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain, and Body in the
Transformation of Trauma

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