5 Mindfulness Exercises to Calm your Anxiety: Body Scan
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The body scan is one of the first mindfulness exercises I learned and fell in love right away. There are a ton of variations of it for different circumstances, but for the sake of simplicity, I will cover the most basic body scan exercise.
A body scan is pretty much what it sounds like, a mental scan of your body.
When I first started practicing the body scan, I would do it before bed when I had too many thoughts running through my head, or I was anxious about the upcoming day, or had a particularly tough day, or was suddenly thinking of all the best ideas in the world. I feel like most people can relate to that sudden “inspiration” that hits right before you want to go to bed or the running through the next day’s to-do list. For me, its often the sudden hard-core motivation to work out and get into shape, which I think is hilarious, because unfortunately, the next morning when I actually can do the workouts, that motivation is mysteriously gone.
Anyways, I digress, much like I do when I’m trying to focus on the body scan, which is why it is such a perfect practice. It gives the mind something tangible to do. Unlike the breath practice I described earlier, the body scan has a much more physical nature to it and for me, seems to occupy my mind and hold my attention a lot longer.
The body scan is about bringing your attention to each and every one of your body parts as you move from your toes to your head.
I tend to move up one leg, move over to the next leg, and then up the body, starting with my big toe. You can do it anyway you like, put your own spin on it, or do it exactly how I do it, the most important thing is bringing your awareness to your body.
With each body part your mind comes to, send 5 breaths its way. Focus on the body part. How it feels, how it moves, how it interacts with the other parts of your body (this is a great exercise if you want to focus on one body part – maybe you’re feeling tension in your back while sitting in your chair at work and you need a stress relieving activity between emails).
Fill that body part with your breath. Let the breath seep into your muscles and bones.
For example, let’s use the shoulders (this was my focus this morning as I was feeling quite tight when my 6-month fell asleep on me). Bring your mind to your shoulders. Notice any tightness or tension that you may be feeling. Bring your attention to where your shoulder muscles attach to your neck. How your shoulder muscles make the rest of your back feel.
The body scan can take a few minutes or it could take 30. It depends how slow you want to take it and how deep you want to go into each body part. It can be a quick break between meetings or a full-on night time ritual that you use to relax your body and mind before bed.