This is Part 4 of our series on mindful practices for stress-relief. We have defined mindfulness as bringing one’s attention and focus into the present moment with an attitude of openness and non-judgment. Part 1 discussed how the practice of mindful breathing can help reduced stress and lower anxiety. Part 2 described how to become aware of the present moment. Part 3 offered instruction on how to practice mindfulness while sitting in traffic! Yes, it is possible to meditate at red lights!
This week’s mindful practice is the BODY SCAN
The purpose of the Body Scan is to get in touch with what is going on in your body at the present moment. You may be surprised by what you discover. This technique can be done in as little as 30 seconds or as long as 30 minutes. It just depends on how much time you choose to focus on this practice. The goal is not to judge or change what you find, or necessarily to try to fix anything; it’s just to notice what your experience of your body is in any given moment.
How it works: Take a couple deep breaths. Slowly drop your awareness into your body. You can start at your head or your feet. Just notice what is going on in that area of your body. What are the sensations? Are they pleasant, unpleasant or neutral? Are there areas of tension? If so, you can breathe into those areas and notice what happens. Go slow. If you don’t have a lot of time to spend, that’s okay. Just mindfully bring your attention to sections of your body at a time. As you work your way through your whole body, breathing, just notice what it feels like to connect with your physical being.
Why do it: We walk around so much in our heads that it can almost seem like, if it weren’t for the neck, the head would not be connected to the body at all. The body scan is a way for us to integrate our mental and the physical experiences together. After all, they are happening simultaneously – we just are usually only paying attention to one and not the other. Becoming aware of the full range of our experience moment-to-moment can deepen our connection to ourselves, others and the world around us. You may even notice that you feel happier or more relaxed. Coincidence? Nope. It’s that whole being present in your body phenomenon. Try it for yourself! You may even feel the stress and anxiety melting away!