Think about a recent time when you’ve felt an unwanted feeling. Maybe when someone cuts you off in traffic. Or when political opinions come up at the family dinner table. Perhaps it involves taking out the trash, the Titans losing, or a memory of a lost loved one coming up at the wrong time. Regardless of the context, whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, on edge, or upset, a quick body scan could help to regulate your nervous system and allow you to feel more grounded. This tool is especially helpful in times when a feeling comes up and you cannot remove yourself from the stressful situation. In the example of political conflict at the family dinner table, body scanning could help you identify and regulate your feelings without getting up and leaving the table before dessert.
Body scanning can help calm your nervous system by encouraging you to identify sensations felt in your body. When using this exercise, there is no need to judge or change the sensations you feel in your body. Rather, the goal is to observe and identify these sensations, and simply let them be. Sensations can include physical sensations that you feel throughout your body at the time you decide to practice this exercise. This could be the feeling of your shirt on your skin, the seat you are sitting in, the way the ground feels beneath your feet, or tension built up in your muscles.
With exercises involving mindfulness, it is always important to not put too much pressure on your exercise completion to look a specific way. If you feel a million sensations in your body, that is perfect. If you feel no sensations in your body, that is perfect as well. There is no right way to use this exercise, and no one method or script will work best for everyone. You know your body, and you know what works best for you. The only thing you must do is choose to spend a few intentional minutes to check in with yourself, be vulnerable and allow yourself to feel.
A body scan exercise might first include a prompt to sit or lie down in a comfortable position. If possible, you can close your eyes or let your gaze soften and take a few deep breaths. Next, you can begin at the top of your head or the soles of your feet, or wherever feels most helpful for you. Once you’ve identified a starting point, you can begin noticing sensations in each part of your body. You might find yourself skipping over body parts that you don’t typically check in with at first, such as your knee or your pinky finger, but with time you will begin to learn where to check in. As you move through your body, pause for a few seconds to breathe between each part. This intentional pause will give you the space to identify sensations that you might not have felt before the exercise began. It could even allow you to extend gratitude towards your ability to identify these sensations. As you conclude the scan through your body, you can slowly begin to open your eyes or sharpen your gaze again. I have included a link to a body scanning script, as well as a link to a guided body scan. Enjoy!