Calm your mind and energize your body with this stress relieving exercise called the body scan. Our bodies and emotions are deeply connected, which is why we feel butterflies in our stomach when we’re nervous, and tension in our shoulders when we’re stressed.
When life gets hectic it’s easy to switch into autopilot, unaware of what you’re actually experiencing inside, physically and emotionally, as you power through your day. Tuning in to the physical sensations in your body is a great way to connect with what’s going on in your mind.
To do a body scan, simply focus your attention on each part of your body with open curiosity—without judging or trying to change anything. Here is a simple sequence to guide you through the body scan while laying down or sitting in a chair:
Take a few deep breaths, paying attention to your breath as it goes in and out. Slowly scan your body from head to toe, bringing your attention to each area of your body:
- Start with the top of your head, moving to the sides of your head
- To your face, forehead, eyes, mouth and jaw
- And now to the neck and shoulders
- To your upper arms, forearms, wrists, and hands
- Take note of any sensations you may feel, without judging or trying to change anything.
- Now to the torso, the chest and upper back
- Be aware of your heartbeat and your breathing.
- Pay attention to your stomach and lower back.
- Notice any thoughts that may be running through your mind, and just let them go, bringing your attention back to your body.
- Notice your hips, thighs and knees.
- Down to the the shins, calves, ankles and feet.
- Become aware of your body as a whole, and feel how your whole body is connected.
- Finally bring your attention back to your breath, and for a few moments feel your entire body expand and contract with each inhale and exhale.
This simple practice can be done as much as you like. Studies have shown that regular practice of the body scan can reduce stress and have a positive effect on emotional and physical well being.1 To include a body scan in your daily routine, try this 8 minute audio track by Stop, Breathe & Think or download the app to access additional mindfulness exercises and to track your progress.
1. Carmody, J. & Baer, R. A. (2008). Relationships between mindfulness practice and levels of mindfulness, medical and psychological symptoms, and well-being in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 31(1), 3-33.