It can be very relaxing and calming to notice our own body very closely, as we saw before. To come into the here and now can calm our nervous system and let us know what we need right now.
One of the exercises in MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) is the body scan. MBSR was created by Buddhist physician Jon Kabat-Zinn over 35 years ago to help patients with heart problems and other stress-related disorders. It offers 8-week courses that support stress reduction and have powerful, medically proven results.
The Body Scan
In the body scan, the attention moves through the body in a guided way, with a nonjudgmental attitude. It’s usually done lying down. Other approaches such as autogenic training apply similar methods, with these results:
- Directing our awareness consciously and calmly towards our body encourages relaxation.
- Directing our awareness away from constantly racing, circling thoughts towards a more stable focus calms our mind and our whole being.
- Calming our body is calming our mind, too.
The body scan is a guided exercise that takes about 20 minutes (you might find longer and shorter versions as well). Since it’s usually done lying down, we might tend to fall asleep. This is more likely to happen during our first times doing it, or when we are really tired. With some experience we will find our mind awake enough even though we are lying down. Many who do the body scan regularly find amazing results.
Daily Body Awareness
If it’s not possible for us to find 20 minutes for the formal body scan during the day, or even better in the evening, we can take mini body-awareness breaks on the go. We can notice our body in that moment in its wholeness, sense where our skin touches something, or track the strongest or loudest sensation present. Some seconds or minutes are enough.
Awareness moments like this spread out in daily life can allow us to reconnect with ourselves and give our mind a break from its skilled functioning during our multiple activities.
Whoever loves the body scan might notice that their awareness of tension in the body begins to happen more and more spontaneously. We begin to check in with our bodies without having to remember to do so. Awareness of the tension brings a natural letting go of it. A habit is established and our awareness naturally begins to scan and release for us: stress reduction on autopilot!
Two suggestions for you:
- Allow for a few short moments of awareness of the body throughout the day.
- Do the body scan for 20 minutes.