Mind, Body, Heart Connection

December 18, 2022 by Bethany Huffman, Child & Family Therapist

We have started a group psychoeducational class for elementary aged kids called Camp MBH (Mind Body Heart). This group will take kids through a developmentally appropriate journey of learning about the relationship between their nervous system, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. These aspects of human existence correspond to each other. When one of these shifts, the others shift to follow suit. Typically, it begins with some sort of environmental stimuli or trigger but can all come from within as well.

The goal of this group will be to help kids learn ideas for recalibration of their nervous system through somatic (body) exercises and skills. This is a “body up” approach as opposed to a “head down” approach. A head down approach would attempt to reason with logic to change the child’s nervous system state, emotions, thoughts, or behaviors. Researchers are finding more and more evidence to support body up approaches to healing nervous systems and trauma (ex. Polyvagal Theory by Steven Porges; hand-model of the brain by Dan Siegel). This is because the logic centers of the brain “shut down” when the nervous system goes into a dysregulated state. Therefore, logic just won’t cut it! There needs to be a way to get the logical brain back online, and the key to this is through working directly with the nervous system itself.

The nervous system has a few different ways it can react, and it’s unique to each person and their body. It can go into hyper-arousal (think fight or flight) or hypo-arousal (think freeze). When someone’s nervous system is hyper-aroused, they need something down-regulating (i.e., calming or relaxing). When their nervous system is hypo-aroused, they need something up-regulating (i.e., energizing or stimulating). Camp MBH will explore how to change nervous system states with various movement, skills, and tools.

Camp MBH will also explore the relationship of emotions and their felt sense in the body. This is called interoceptive awareness. An example of this would be getting knots in your stomach before public speaking—those knots are the body’s somatic reaction to anxiety. When we learn to distinguish various sensations in our body, we are more in tune with what emotions we are experiencing. This helps us to either soothe our body or explore why we feel that emotion and what next steps would be appropriate to help the situation. Emotions are messengers that something is either really right or really wrong! Tuning in to these cues allows us to lead a less chaotic, more present life that we feel in better control of.

Camp MBH will last 6 sessions once a week for children ages 8-10 starting this January. If you or someone you know is interested, reach out to counseling.referral@cfcare.org for more information.