If you attend therapy or have delved into any sort of mindfulness practice, you may have heard of something called a body scan. If not, it’s exactly what it sounds like (though probably a little less medically intensive).
Think of it like taking a mental x-ray of your body when you feel like something feels off and you want to find the source of something that may be affecting you mentally. While mental health, of course, is concentrated in the mind, it can physically affect other parts of your body as well. Body scans give you the opportunity to pinpoint and focus on the pains in your chest, your shaking hands, or the headaches that might result when facing depression and anxiety.
While the timing of it can vary and seem long and daunting (some guided body scans can last anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes), there are ways to complete a quick body scan for just a few minutes. These can be particularly useful when you’re experiencing more heightened symptoms and emotions and need to ground yourself.
So how is it done? First, find a place where you can focus on yourself for a brief period of time. It can be sitting on your couch, in a chair, lying on a yoga mat, or even standing up if you’re able. Focus on the parts of your body that are in contact with something (like your back to the mat, or your feet to the floor). Use this time to center yourself and put your attention on the body scan.
Most, if not all, body scans have you take a tour of the body. Going from top down, focus on as many individual parts of your body as possible – your forehead, neck, hands, stomach, and so on. How do they feel? Is there tension? Pay attention to how they feel; can you feel the air on the back of your hands? Or the way your shirt is resting on your arm? After you focus on one part of the body, let that fade as you move onto the next part.
Of course, this is just a brief primer into how body scans are done. The links above go into more detail if you want to learn more or want to try doing body scans. Overall, they’re a great way to check in on yourself, especially in times when you feel extra moments of stress, anxiety, and/or worry.
Have you ever conducted a body scan? Is there anything you do to ground yourself, or try to ground yourself, during moments of heightened emotion and/or stress? Share your experiences in the comments!