Learning Why and How to do a Body Scan Meditation
Have you had one of those weeks where everything just feels wrong? You feel unmotivated to get out of bed, and to escape reality, you binge eat or accidentally finish the entire season of squid game in one day. Although these are great temporary mood boosters, they do not provide long-term stress relief. Instead, body scan meditation, a growing field in psychology, is proven to provide long-term benefits to one’s mental and physical well-being.
What is a body scan?
Body Scan is a meditative practice that involves scanning your body’s sensations to develop greater self-awareness which can help one feel more connected to self and gain more insight into unresolved feelings and emotions.1
Benefits of a Body Scan Meditation
Recent studies suggest that individuals that practice body scan meditations regularly have reported improved well-being in multiple ways such as:
Lower stress levels
A daily 20-minute body scan practice can lower cortisol levels. It leads to greater activation of the parasympathetic nervous system in relation to the sympathetic nervous system, evoking a relaxation response.2
Improves sleeping patterns
Practicing before bedtime has shown to mitigate sleep disturbances, making it easier to fall and stay asleep. Try listening to a body scan with music while progressively focusing on relaxing your body from head to toe; it can help you turn off the “noise” in your head and put your mind to rest!
Helps cope with pain
A clinical study found that a brief body scan had immediate benefits for those experiencing chronic pain. Participants in the body scan group reported a significant reduction in ratings for pain-related distress.
Improves self-awareness and self-compassion
A body scan allows us to tune into our inner emotions without judgement. Regular practice can help us approach difficult situations with love and acceptance.
How does a body scan mediation work? 3
Lie down or sit in a comfortable position
Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Notice the sensation of your breath as you inhale and exhale.
Focus on one particular body part spot as you continue breathing slowly and deeply.
Spend anywhere from 20 seconds to 1 minute observing these sensations.
If you notice any discomfort, acknowledge and accept them without any criticism. For example, if you feel frustrated and angry, don’t judge yourself for these emotions. Notice them and let them pass.
Continue breathing while imagining the pain and tension decreasing with each breath.
Slowly release your mental awareness on that specific part of your body and redirect it to your next area of focus.
It is completely normal for your thoughts to drift off. As you scan the different parts of your body, pay attention to when your thoughts begin to drift and try to return your focus to the meditation practice
Written by: Saniya Nagpal
Year III, Honors Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour