In our first Somatic Insights post, we briefly discussed the parts that make up our Autonomic Nervous System - the Parasympathetic and the Sympathetic Nervous Systems - along with their functions and roles for maintaining allostasis in the body. We focused on one way the breath can significantly contribute to altering and balancing our internal systems, as it is usually the most readily accessible tool we have to work with. Head over to that post if you’d like to gain a foundation of understanding for the Somatic Insights series.
To delve deeper into the ways we can access and restore our physiology, we’re sharing a list of tips that allow us to tap into our Parasympathetic state and replenish:
Space: Actively setting boundaries and taking time for ourselves. Whether you need a long walk in the morning or time alone to journal and rest after work, advocate for yourself and spend time cultivating awareness of your internal experience through relaxation. When we actively prioritize ourselves and self-care, we give our body a chance to mellow out and reset, gaining awareness of our internal state while taking us out of fight, flight, or freeze mode.
Stretching: Gentle movements let our bodies know we are safe, activating our parasympathetic and calming our nervous system. Yoga, qi gong, and stretching meditation(s) are all great examples of this. Doing this for 10 minutes during your morning routine is a great way to shift into your body before starting the day.
Outdoors: Extensive studies have linked nature and parasympathetic nervous system activation. Just 10 minutes of being outside switches on our rest and digest state, bringing us into recovery mode. Find a trail to walk, a grassy hill to wander up, or sit by some running water! Your body will only benefit from it.
Connection: Investing time, empathy, and love into fulfilling relationships is a great way to create healthy, safe, connective spaces for ourselves while inviting in our rest and digest response. Hold someone's hand, play a game, or have a conversation. Doing this while feeling good lets the body know we are safe, held, and cared for. And it loves that.
Meditation: Meditating allows us to drop into a deep, restful theta state. Theta brainwaves are our gateway to learning, intuition, and memory. When in this state, our external senses are withdrawn and redirected inwards — our breathing helps us focus on embodied sensations and experiences. Theta also happens to be a parasympathetic state. Justine Bloome — founder of The Mindful — offers meditation courses, practices, and suggestions. If you’re looking for some how-to guidance, follow her on Instagram.
Music: Our resting heart rate beats at about 60bpm, so any music with a beat around there is great for your body. Searching “60bpm music” on any music search engine will bring up lots of suggestions, ranging from deep relaxation sounds to hip-hop alternative songs.
Creating: Being intentional when baking, drawing, painting, or anything else that brings us into a flow state is excellent for prompting our bodies to reset and recover. There are several activities in our 90 Day planner to inspire us to get into that flow state.
Journaling: Free-thought writing is another way to invite ourselves into a flow state, where healing our insides are prioritized and our mind has a chance to detach from the stressors it’s been constantly wading through. Journaling, in general, is a great way to communicate, create new perspectives, relieve internal tension, and release.
Be Generous: There is just as much good for us as the people we give to. Taking time to go out of our way and do kind deeds and think kind thoughts, whether writing a letter, picking up street rubbish, or simply reflecting on someone you love, this creates loving thoughts and feelings, which all contribute to parasympathetic activation!
In what ways can you start integrating some of these mindful practices into your daily routine to create an active practice of embodiment? Share any questions, comments, or concerns below or in our FB Group.
How do you make time for the parasympathetic —
What practices have you created that help you get embodied?
Written by Zoë Hernandez. Zoë is a process-oriented creative, passionate about the mind-body connection, questions, and compelling visual storytelling. She uses her background in somatic psychology and photography to understand, empathize, and create work that makes everyone feel like art.