Mindfulness Training for Alexithymia
Bornemann and Singer have looked at how steady increases in heartbeat perception accuracy can decrease alexithymia (the inability to feel and describe emotions in the self) through contemplative mental training.
You know how much we love a study on interoceptive awareness! Well...here is another one! :)
Hearbeat perception is one measure of interoceptive awareness, which describes the sense we have of our bodies from the inside, encompassing feelings of embodiment. Bornemann and Singer have looked at how steady increases in heartbeat perception accuracy can decrease alexithymia (the inability to feel and describe emotions in the self) through contemplative mental training.
In the context of a 9-month mental training study, the ReSource Project, two matched cohorts of 77 people and 79 people underwent three training modules of 3 months' duration that targeted attentional and interoceptive abilities (Presence module), socio-affective (Affect module), and socio-cognitive (Perspective module) abilities. A third cohort of 78 people underwent 3 months of practice (Affect module) and a retest control group of 84 people did not undergo any training.
Heartbeat detection was found to increase steadily over the training, with significant and small- to medium-sized effects emerging after 6 months of mental training. These changes were concomitant with and predictive of changes in emotional awareness. Researchers concluded that heartbeat detection can indeed be trained through intensive contemplative practice. These increments in interoceptive accuracy and the related improvements in emotional awareness point to opportunities for improving physical and psychological health through contemplative mental training. Super duper we say!