In the complexity of human perception, a lesser-known sense plays a vital role in our daily lives. This sense is called interoception. Interoception focuses on the sensations originating within our bodies. Thus, it is unlike our external senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Although often overlooked, interoception provides important information and contributes to our holistic health. It heightens our understanding of ourselves and the world. If we understand these internal senses, we develop a greater sense of agency in ourselves. They can increase our confidence in who we are in this vast and complex world. In this blog, we will discuss the effects of interoception on our health and consciousness.1

Connecting Exteroceptors to Interoceptors

The interoceptive nerve system of our body is an intricate network of receptors. It directs our interactions with the external world as much as our five external senses do. Interoceptors allow us to further understand the needs of our bodies. Being in touch and aware of these sensations allows us access to choices and planning. They allow us to more fully support our health and experience in life.1

Interoception is made up of all the signals sent from various internal receptors. There are different internal receptors to monitor different bodily functions. These interoceptors include:


This sense gives us awareness of the position and movement of our limbs and body in space. Proprioceptors can be found in muscles, tendons, and joints. They allow us to navigate the world with precision and coordination. This sense is diminished by certain substances, such as alcohol, and other depressants. These substances cause individuals to lose their sense of body position and coordination. It’s a fantastic ability our body has that is often unrecognized.1


Thermoreceptors are interoceptors that detect changes in body temperature. They help us maintain a constant internal environment. When we feel a chill or experience a fever, thermoreceptors alert us to these shifts. This prompts the appropriate responses to restore equilibrium. There is no denying the value of being aware of body temperature and its effect on mood or concentration.2 


These receptors signal the presence of potentially harmful stimuli. Some examples of harmful stimuli include extreme pressure or tissue damage. Nociceptors play a crucial role in pain perception. They urge us to take action to avoid injury or avoid further harming an already present injury. This sense can even relay information related to chronic muscle and tissue strain. For example, we become aware that we have been sitting in a position for too long because we feel discomfort. This awareness helps prevent stress from becoming more significant dysfunction or injury.3


These interoceptors track our energy reserves and nutritional needs. They help regulate our eating behaviors, oxygen needs, and our immune system’s response. The chemicals released by different organs travel in the bloodstream. These chemicals communicate the status and condition of the body. They also influence choices based on energy levels and other basic needs.1

Affective touch

While physical touch is one of our five external senses, affective touch is an interoceptive sense. Affective touch activates different nerves compared to normal physical touch. Affective touch is a very light touch. Through its specific nerve endings, it activates an area of the brain called the insula. The insula is an area of the brain responsible for somatosensory information. This area also handles self-awareness, consciousness, and homeostasis.4

The Necessity of Interoception for Homeostasis

Homeostasis, the balance that our bodies strive to maintain, relies heavily on our internal senses. Interoception acts as the inner compass. It provides real-time feedback to guide our behaviors and influence our reactions. It also supports adaptation to the external world.1 For example, when dehydrated, interoception signals prompt us to drink fluids. Dehydration may signal our chemoreceptors through chemicals released from the kidneys. Another example is when our body temperature rises. Thermoreceptors tell our brain that our temperature is above what’s tolerable. This results in us knowing we should find shade or a cooler environment.

Interoception ensures that our systems function harmoniously. They prevent extreme deviations that could lead to illness or injury. By fostering awareness of our internal signals, we empower ourselves to make informed decisions. We support homeostasis and well-being in our bodies.1

Decoding the Brain’s Interpretation of Signals

The brain is the command center for gathering our external and internal senses. It takes this information and makes it into coherent experiences. As mentioned earlier, the insula serves as the epicenter of interoception. Here, the brain processes and integrates the signals from various interoceptors. This creates a conscious perception of bodily sensations.2

The brain’s interpretation of interoceptive signals is not purely reactive. It’s also influenced by our emotional and cognitive states. The brain and the body are inextricably connected. This relationship between our internal world and emotional mind has a great impact. It allows our internal experiences to influence our feelings. It also impacts our ability to think clearly and make informed decisions. For example, a racing heartbeat can mean we are feeling excited or afraid, depending on the context. Context is influenced by our past experiences and relationships. It is especially influenced by how we have experienced the world as safe or unsafe.5

The Impact of Interoception on Physical Health

Interoception’s role in physical health extends beyond perception. It actively contributes to our body’s ability to heal and thrive. An attuned sense of interoception can lead to behaviors that support homeostasis. It also can provide options to prevent dysfunction instead of responding to it. Interoception does this first by improving awareness of what the body needs. Each sensation is how the body communicates its needs. And, when attuned to its sensations, we can choose how we respond.1 

Next, interoception supports our sense of self and our understanding of self-worth. By attuning to our sensations and what is needed, we engage areas of our brain that recognize self-worth. This also promotes an emotional connection to self. Developing a relationship with ourselves increases our desire to care for ourselves. In doing so, we are more likely to engage in behaviors that result in holistic health. When we notice fatigue, hunger, and discomfort, we begin to focus on building habits that support balance in the body. We start to foster comfort and ease.1

Enhanced pain management is another benefit of enhanced proprioception. When we are not in tune with our body’s sense of discomfort, we learn to override and ignore signals of discomfort. Over time, this can cause pain. When we are mindful of the body’s discomfort, we can take actions to prevent chronic pain and dysfunction. We can also learn to enjoy the benefits of relaxation by using meditation and breathing exercises. These practices also contribute to maintaining balance in the body. They heal the stress it endures throughout the day.3

Interoception also aids digestion. It does so by allowing us to sense how different foods affect us. This enables us to make dietary choices that support digestion and nutrient absorption. An example of this is well known for those who are lactose intolerant. Some individuals who show signs of lactose intolerance will continue to consume foods with lactose. This causes continued digestive problems. So, by continuing to consume harmful foods, individuals ignore the signs the body is sending. They do so as a way to continue eating foods that they enjoy. By becoming more aware of the impact of lactose, individuals can see the many ways their body is negatively affected. With this awareness, there is increased opportunity to move towards healthier alternatives.6 

Interoception contributes to the body’s stress response regulation and emotional regulation. Physical manifestations of stress include an increased heart rate or muscle tension. By recognizing these manifestations of stress and emotion, we can use techniques to promote relaxation. These physical cues are often present, and the brain provides a meaning that makes sense. For example, an individual may be getting ready to visit a friend, but as they are getting ready they feel tension in their stomach and chest. Their brain may notice this and start searching for a reason. This may result in the brain labeling the feeling as social anxiety. Or, the brain could label it as stress due to unfinished work from the week. 

The ability to slow down and tune in might help them to relax the sensation. They may start to feel more at ease and grounded in the present moment. They might even notice that their fast heart rate has more to do with their low blood sugar from not eating paired with drinking a large coffee an hour ago. This information might then inform future decisions. For example, eating more regular meals and limiting the amount of coffee they drink to decrease the chance of a fast heart rate.5

The Impact of Interoception on Mental Health

Interoception’s influence extends beyond physical health. It has a large impact on our mental and emotional well-being. An enhanced sense of interoception is linked to:

Mindfulness and Presence

Interoception is a cornerstone of mindfulness. It fosters a deep connection to the present moment. It also enhances our body awareness. By grounding ourselves in our bodily experiences, we are more able to hear what the body is saying. This presence promotes mental clarity and reduces worry about the past or the future.7 

Anxiety and Mood Disorders

Interoceptive deficits have been observed in individuals with anxiety and mood disorders. Practices like body scans and meditation can help increase our interoceptive awareness. These practices are great to help lessen symptoms of anxiety and mood disorders.6

Self-Compassion and Body Image 

Interoception encourages a compassionate relationship with our bodies. It allows us to focus on internal sensations rather than external appearance. This fosters a positive body image and develops greater self-acceptance.6

Trauma Recovery 

Interoceptive practices can support trauma recovery. They do so by helping individuals reconnect with their bodies in a safe and mindful way. Trauma is any experience that creates a sense of helplessness and harm. The traumatic experience may be related to physical or emotional harm. Trauma can occur through direct experience or witnessing someone else being harmed.2

Our brain relies on understanding and interpreting the world we live in. If an experience causes that interpretation to be that we are not safe, then our body will begin responding as if that were true. Interoception allows us to witness our patterns of reaction. By doing so, we can learn how to reconnect and experience a sense of safety and agency in life. This reconnection can help us process traumatic experiences and reduce dissociation.7


Interoception is the often unrecognized structure of how we navigate our lives. In the interplay between our internal and external worlds, the role of interoception becomes clear. This subtle sense serves as a guiding compass. It leads us toward physical balance and emotional resilience. It allows us to form a deeper connection to ourselves. By nurturing our interoceptive awareness, we unlock the potential for profound transformation. Interception allows us to foster a harmonious union between body and mind.


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  2. Khalsa SS, Adolphs R, Cameron OG, et al. Interoception and Mental Health: A Roadmap. Biological psychiatry Cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging. 2018;3(6):501-513. doi:
  3. Weller J, Comeau D, Otis J. Myofascial Pain. Seminars in Neurology. 2018;38(6):640-643. doi:
  4. Case LK, Laubacher CM, Olausson H, Wang B, Spagnolo PA, Bushnell MC. Encoding of Touch Intensity But Not Pleasantness in Human Primary Somatosensory Cortex. The Journal of Neuroscience. 2016;36(21):5850-5860. doi:
  5. Zacharioudakis N, Vlemincx E, Van O. Categorical interoception and the role of threat. Journal of Neuroscience. 2020;148(21):25-34. doi:
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  7. Gibson J. Mindfulness, Interoception, and the Body: A Contemporary Perspective. Frontiers in Psychology. 2019;10. doi:
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