What is mindful body scan?

Our physical body is a miracle. It endures multiple stressors every day, yet our heart keeps beating and our lungs keep breathing. Every part of our body works tirelessly on our behalf at all hours of the day or night, even when we are tired, hungry, sick, or in pain.

We are often unaware of what is happening in our body because we are focused on feelings and thoughts. This can lead to making choices that negatively impact our body, such as eating unhealthy foods, ignoring messages of pain, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, not going to bed when we need to sleep, and holding tension in our muscles, especially our neck and shoulders.

A mindful body scan makes us aware of how our body is feeling and brings us into the present moment. This is a type of mindfulness that connects our breath to the sensations of our body. We acknowledge parts of the body that might be experiencing pain and discomfort and learn to relax areas where we might be holding tension. The body scan can allow us to let go of some of the things causing us stress, even if only temporarily.

In this 22-minute exercise, you will be guided to find a comfortable position either sitting or lying down. You are given the opportunity to connect with your breath, which will help you to focus on the present moment. Then, starting with your toes, and moving all the way up to the top of your head, you are asked to guide your awareness for a few moments to different parts of the body. The goal of this mindfulness practice is to feel more relaxed and refreshed than when you began. You may also feel less stress both physically and mentally.

More information

Using evidence-based, Whole Health tools such as a mindful body scan can have a positive impact on your day-to-day well-being. VA’s Whole Health approach incorporates self-care techniques, including mindfulness, to help you to be more conscious of your thoughts and feelings. This type of practice can help with relaxation, processing grief, and improving focus. To learn more about mindfulness visit: https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTH/veteran-handouts/index.asp.

The Mindfulness Coach app leads users through steps to learn how to practice mindfulness to reduce stress and cope with unpleasant thoughts and emotions. Check out the app here: https://mobile.va.gov/app/mindfulness-coach

Jennifer Schmid, MSN, RN, CNL, ACN, is a Field Implementation Team Consultant for the VHA Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation.

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Published on Jul. 22, 2020

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