Relaxed dog on its back on a bed

Body Scan Mindfulness Practice

One very helpful mindfulness practice is the Body Scan.

Mindfulness practice, as succinctly defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn: 

Paying attention

  1. on purpose,
  2. in the present moment,
  3. non-judgementally.

In a body-scan mindfulness practice, the thing you’re paying attention to (on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally) is your body — everything from your toes to your scalp. Using your body as the focus of your attention to often makes it easier to stay in the present moment, since in the present moment, there’s always something going on in your body, even if it’s just the sensation of your breath entering your nose, an itch, the pressure of your butt on the chair, or the rumbling of your stomach.

Even more helpfully, there’s ever-growing evidence that bringing your mind’s awareness to your body (non-judgementally) can help integrate your brain, and a better-integrated brain works and responds to the world (including stress) a lot better.

Plus, many people feel more relaxed after doing it, even if only for three minutes.

And last but definitely not least, being more attuned to your physical needs and sensations often leads to more easily making better choices when it comes to taking care of your body, in eating, exercise, and sleep.

To get you started, here are two recordings of body scan meditations you can listen to online or download for free:

Three-minute body scan meditation, from the UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center (MARC)

Forty-five minute body scan meditation from the UCSD Center for Mindfulness

If you’re feeling unsure of how to practice mindfulness, I’ve recorded an introduction to it that you might find helpful. You can listen or download it here: Basic Mindfulness Practice Audio Download