Focus exclusively on this daily practice.
The mind-body scan
While it sounds like something that aliens might invent, a mind-body scan is quite simple.
Every day, take 5 minutes and find a quiet place without interruptions.
This could be just before bed. In your office. Sitting on a bench or lying on a mat in a corner of the gym.
In fact, even the bathroom will do.
All you need is 5 minutes of quiet, distraction-free time.
Start by noticing physical sensations.
Begin at the top of your head and go all the way down to your toes, piece by piece.
- What are you feeling in your eyes? Your ears? Your nose?
- Are you clenching your jaw? Are your facial muscles tight or loose?
- How are you holding your head? Straight? Pushed forward like ET? Tilted to one side ?
- Is your chest tight or open? How are you breathing — deeply or shallowly?
- Where are your shoulders? Up around your ears? Hunched forward? Hanging loosely? Is one higher than the other?
- Do you feel a breeze on your face? Is it warm or cool in the room? Are you sweating? Shivering?
- Are you wearing a scratchy sweater? Can you feel the label in your shirt?
- You get the idea. Work your way down to your toenails with this step-by-step “scan”.
- Don’t judge or rush to change anything. Just observe, like a scientist.
Write down your observations if you like. Over two weeks, you may notice patterns.
Do the same for your emotions and thoughts.
"Scan" your brain, heart, and "gut instinct". What are you feeling emotionally? What thoughts are going through your head?
Again, don't judge, try to make sense of, or try to fix anything you notice. Just observe.
Once you’ve done your "scan" of your bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts, ask yourself 3 questions.
- …what am I feeling, physically?
- …what am I feeling, emotionally?
- …what am I thinking?
Don’t worry if you can’t put words to everything you’re feeling and experiencing.
Humans are pretty good at language, but we think mostly in pictures, metaphors, and vague physical sensations.
So if you can “notice and name”, that’s great.
But you won’t always be able to stick labels on things.
That’s OK. Just observe. That’s all.
How to do this practice
To get a solid "Yes" to this practice, do a 5-minute scan once a day.
But feel free to do it more than that.
And spend at least 5 minutes on it. Don’t rush. Set a timer if sitting still this long makes you antsy.
All you have to do is pay attention for 5 minutes. That’s it.
To make it easier for you to remember how to do this habit, download the handy Mind-Body Scan cheat-sheet. Print it off and keep it with you so you can do your scan anywhere, anytime.
As we develop this habit over the week, feel free to jot down additional questions to focus on during your scan.