Regular mindfulness meditation in the form of body scanning not only helps to reduce stress and anxiety but promotes better sleep too.
Body scanning is a mindfulness meditation practice that you can conduct anywhere; at home, on your bed, even at your desk at work.
It offers deep and fully explored body scans, in a meditative exercise where you are awake and attentive at any moment and allows yourself to feel the complete relaxation and rejuvenation of your body.
Benefits of Body Scan Meditation
Conducting a body scan and bringing awareness to your entire body helps you to notice changes in your body.
As you go about life, your physical self becomes aware of the tension and stress a lot sooner than your mind does, and it reveals itself in places like a sore neck, tense shoulders, or a clenched jaw.
While doing a body scan, you will work through your body from your feet to the top of your head, consciously observe the physical sensations you come across. There is no need for you to do anything or try and fix anything; observe these sensations in your body and just let them be.
The primary benefits of body scan meditation are:
- Better ability to handle chronic sensations like pain and fatigue
- Reduces anxiety
- Stress reduction and stress management
- Promotes sleep
- Increased psychological well being
Body scan practice gives you a better ability to handle chronic pain
During this meditation, being aware and mindful will help you notice pain and discomfort throughout your body. As you focus on the various parts of your body, you will become aware of any pressure, tingles, and pain. Observe these feelings in a non-judgmental space and be aware of them.
Meditation will not remove chronic pain, but if practiced regularly it can help you with your physical and emotional state, which will alter the way you think about the pain. This is especially true for people living with chronic issues.
Studies conducted in 2017 revealed that patients who did consistent mindful meditation resulted in a changed psychological state and the effects associated with chronic issues, for example, depression, were reduced.
Practice the body scan to be more aware of your present moment and reap the physical benefits of mindfulness practice.
Reduces anxiety and stress in your entire body
Another research survey in 2019 conducted in the United States shows that stress levels amongst adults are rising at an alarming rate. We know that chronic stress is damaging to our health because with increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, serious diseases such as cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other chronic diseases have a higher chance of developing.
As you run through a body scan meditation, the focused observation on your body will allow you to recognize areas of tension. By consciously relaxing your muscles you will release the tension that your physical body is holding on to.
47 people took part in a research group to test the effects of body scanning. Half of the group was given an audiobook and the other half were given an Android phone with a body scanning app. After 8 weeks the results revealed the cortisol levels in the body scan group decreased, while the levels increased in the group listening to the audiobook. Body scanning alone, e.g., without yoga, did lower cortisol levels.
Body scan relaxing helps promote sleep
Using the body scan meditation technique, your body will learn to drift into a deep and more restful sleep. This type of meditation is a natural sleeping aid and is a much better option than sleeping pills.
When a person has trouble sleeping, it's often because of stress or underlying anxiety. Learn to manage your stress more constructively and you will notice your sleep improving.
In 2020, a study was conducted on 54 adolescents who were suffering from insomnia. When body scan meditation was combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy, the teens in the study reported sleeping longer, having a more fitful sleep and waking up less, and being less irritable upon waking.
How to practice body scan meditation
- If you can, dress comfortably although this is not essential as you can run a body scan while sitting in front of your desk at work.
- Get into position. Sit somewhere comfortable where you won't be distracted. If you are using body scanning to help with sleep, do this lying down on your bed. Gently close your eyes.
- Take a few deep breaths and take notice of how your body feels.
- Guide your attention across your whole body. A good starting point is the toes on your left foot, paying attention to how they feel. Notice any tingles, heat, twitches, or pressures. Feel these sensations. Move along your foot to your ankle, and then continue to work methodically along your body - legs, shoulders, arms, hands until you reach the top of your head - stopping to focus on your various body parts. Pause at each body part and pay attention to what you are feeling. Notice sensations without judgment and then move on to the next area. If you don't notice anything, that is perfectly fine. Acknowledge that and move on.
- Try to stay in the present moment. If you find that your attention wanders, become aware of that and notice the thought, observe it floating down the river (Sam: interlink to the previous article I wrote), and gently return your focus to a specific body part.
- Once you have completed your body scan, take a few moments to notice how your body is feeling. Inhale with a few deep breaths and slowly open your eyes.
It will become a lot easier to notice your bodily sensations without holding on to them with daily practice.
Tips for getting started
It takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. Body scan practice is uniquely powerful that you can quickly turn into a habit!
- Try to meditate every day, at the same time, and if possible, in the same place
- Figure out if your body appreciates an early morning session, or one just before going to bed
- Begin by following a guided body scan meditation which is easy to download on your phone, or book a session with an experienced instructor
Meditation involves concentrating on your body for sensations and examining the body to find your specific features of its surface.
The body scan breaks the cycle in which the underlying tensions occur physically and psychologically. Body scanner training is an essential meditation to return the mind to calm when tension increases.
Practicing body scan meditation is something that you need to make a part of your everyday life. Doing this will push you to a place where you will be able to manage stress, release tension, and feel calmer.
Have you tried body scan meditation? If so, tell us your story in the comments below.