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Managing visceral reactions using mindfulness practices

Visceral in the simplest of words means relating to inward baser primal self rather than intellect. Visceral reactions are bodily response to stimuli or experience, which come directly from the gut and not from the the intellect. 

Most succumb to Visceral reactions and live to regret them later… It, in the moment, may sound like the right thing to do but it has a lot of effects. Although in a very minute sense, but these kinds of reactions can harm the body-mind system.

These reactions can influence our responses towards new dealings.  Before we get deeper into this topic, we must first know that emotional and visceral are two very different things. 

Emotions are responses to external stimuli whereas visceral reactions (the common word for which is gut feeling) arises out of a physical reaction so strong you may feel like it has punched you in the stomach. 

The two are also different because of the kind of reaction we have to each one. Visceral is the imbedded inner feeling that causes physical reaction whereas emotions are feelings that may or may not be intellectual in nature.

Visceral reaction organs…

Visceral reactions are an important part of our organ system and the triggered by the visceral organs. These organs include the heart, kidney, liver etc. Our body trunk is divided into three parts. These include the thoracic region, cervical region and abdominal region. 

1/3. Thoracic Visceral organs

1. Thyroid gland: Produces thyroid hormone to maintain body metabolism.

2. Trachea: Transports oxygen and co2 from and to the environment respectively into the lungs.

3. Arteries and Veins: Transports pure and impure blood respectively throughout the body.

4. Lungs: Central respiratory organs.

5. Heart: Vital organ of body and central organ of the circulatory system.

2/3. Abdominal Visceral Organs

Abdominal visceral organs include peritoneum, stomach, duodenum, intestine, colon, liver, spleen, pancreas, kidney, adrenal gland, appendix, gall bladder.

1. Peritoneum: A thin membrane covering the abdominal cavity. Its function is mainly to secrete serous fluids to support abdominal organs.

2. Stomach: Part of digestive system and acts as a storage sac for the food materials swallowed through mouth.

3. Duodenum, intestine, colon: These are distinguishing parts of digestive tract and secrete various enzymes to digest the different carbohydrates, proteins and lipids present in the food.

4. Liver: The largest of visceral organs and a vital organ present in vertebrate species and main functions include detoxification, protein synthesis, production and secretion of important biochemical required for digestion.

5. Kidney: Central organ in the excretory system. Filters and excretes liquid waste of the body.

6. Adrenal gland: A pair of adrenal glands is present on top of kidneys and is also known as supra renal glands and are type of endocrine glands. Secretes hormones related to the stress.

7. Appendix: A small blunt ended structure presents at the junction of small and large intestines. Host certain bacteria which play an important role in human digestion and metabolism.

8. Gall bladder: A dispensable organ in humans and stores bile juice produced by liver. It mainly aids in the digestion.

3/3. Cervical Visceral Organs

Cervical visceral organs includes, pelvis, coccyx, ovaries, fallopian tube, uterus, vulva, clitoris, perineum, urinary bladder, testicles, rectum.

1. Pelvis: This is the posterior most part of body trunk and contains several parts like pelvic girdles and several bones.

2. Coccyx: Caudal part of axial skeleton.

3. Ovaries, fallopian tubes, Uterus, Vulva, clitoris: are Cervical visceral organs that are parts of female reproductive system and serves different functions in copulation; production, maturation of egg; fertilisation and nurturing of embryo in reproduction.

4. Testicles: Parts of male reproductive system and produces sperms.

5. Urinary bladder: Stores the excess liquid waste of body until it is excreted out.

6. Rectum: Last part of digestive system and opens to the exterior through anus. It aids in the excretion of solid waste from the body.

Visceral reactions and their effects…

We have already mentioned earlier in this essay that visceral reactions have certain minute effects on the body. We will now talk about these effects. 

Since the kidney is an important part of our visceral system, the adrenal gland cannot be overlooked. This gland introduces adrenaline to the body to prepare for a fight or flight situation. In either ‘fight or flight’ case the hormone adrenaline increases the blood pumped to the heart. In case of extreme visceral reaction the heart may even respond with a myocardial infarction or a heart attack.

The adrenal gland also produces cortisone. This has anti inflammatory functions but is also responsible for causing sexual problems among young people like growth of beard in women and reduced libido and possibly erectile dysfunction. 

We must know that visceral functions are very quick and can happen rapidly, even before we notice. So controlling them can be a big problem. It may happen that we do not know the cause of the visceral reaction at all. We may realise hours later what caused us to react that way. So beware of excessive exposure of visceral reactions. They may harm you in unknown yet dangerous way. 

Being mindful can help reduce/ eliminate a few visceral reaction…

Even though visceral is a programmed triggered reaction, thankfully, there are several mindful ways to control these reactions. Listed below are just three of these mindfulness processes…

1/3. Perform yoga asana

Yoga is an age old technique that has great impact on the working of our organ system. Yoga asana not only keep us healthy but also calm us down and this, in turn, helps us in taking better decisions. 

Yoga asana are known for increasing blood flow to our vital organs. It is important to note that correct amount of blood flowing to your heart can decrease heart attacks.

Yoga can help us to relax our mind and body. It can create a mindful energy around an individual and is of great help in maintaining the visceral organs. Hence the side effects of visceral reactions can be minimised to a great extent if we practice yoga asana. 

Yoga can help us to concentrate on the present. Performing yoga asana regularly can help to release tension and hence bring out your better self. Yoga is a must if you have increase levels of nervous tension buildup within. Due to the inherent mindfulness of yoga asana practice, irresponsible behavioural patterns, can get sorted.

2/3. Laughter therapy

Laughter therapy is an easy word that comes to us when we think of behavioural management. Laughter releases the stuck tension in our body by releasing the feel good hormones in our body. These hormones are called endorphins. They regulate our sympathetic nervous system and releases stress. Laughter is contagious and even in the most stressful situation laughter can bring about a much needed relief.  

One just needs to be mindful of tension and stress building up… In fact, a stream of science believes even pretend laughter can bring about the same benefit, if done with purpose and full mindfulness. 

3/3. Stomach pumping

Stomach pumping is a lesser known but effective method of stress management and also relaxation. It increases the flow of adrenaline to the body. Stomach pumping can help us control the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The endless benefit of stomach pumping lies in realising minor stress conditions. 

Stomach pumping is a simple diaphragmatic expansion and contraction which introduces quick and accurate responses in the body. Eastern philosophy believes that diaphragm is the muscle that holds all the stress and tension and breathing practices like agnisaar and bhastrika can help release these stuck emotional energies.

Our body is truly a machine. It needs controlling agents. If laughter therapy fails then we have stomach pumping as an alternate option. It is yet to gain widespread popularity but once introduced in can bring about effective changes in our behavioural and visceral systems.

Develop and practice some mindfulness practices. I have penned down basic 23 practices that can help. Read on…

Writers Note: At the bottom of every pit lies unending solutions. If you consider your organ system to be the pit, we have thousands of solutions waiting to be uncovered. Every answer lies right within. Awaken the inner element of mindfulness through these above methods.

A controlled visceral system means healthy living as it influences our nervous, circulatory and reproductive system. In the true sense of judgment, visceral reactions are nothing to be worried about, provided we learn to minimise them. 

There is no need to keep thinking about how they function or what can they do to our system. I assure you, they are less harmful than the ant that bit you in the morning. So keep calm and be secured. Just be Mindful…

Also Read…

[1] Mindfulness and Meditation can help reduce aggression

[2] Meditation and Mindfulness can help prevent small ‘petty issues’ from taking over life

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