I have previously discussed Zen Meditation and its ability to improve your self-care in a previous article, but today I would like to talk about the mindfulness 3-minute body scan technique. I am always looking for any exercise or practice that can make an impact on everyone’s self-care routine as well as modifying and enhancing it for maximum effect.
The Mindfulness 3-minute body scan originated as a meditation technique, and I will cover the basics of the original practice below as well as some suggestions to make this a more powerful tool for self-care analysis on a daily basis. The term body scan seems self-explanatory, and it is in a nutshell exactly that. In self-care, knowledge of your body and being able to effectively acknowledge any opportunities or deficiencies forms the central bedrock holding everything together. The spring of health flows from there.
Before you Begin
If you are unfamiliar with meditation or the practice of emptying your mind, then I suggest you do a little light training before you attempt the Mindfulness 3-minute body scan technique. Emptying your mind of thoughts is a key tenant to meditation and can be one of the most difficult things you ever do. There is an old saying of trying to tame the monkey of the mind.
Think back to anytime you have every been so engrossed in a task that you find yourself concentrating on it 100 percent with everything around you fade into nothingness. It is just you and the task you are working on. This is exactly the kind of mindset you can harness to your benefit. The key is to focus it on one thing and one thing only.
Practice scanning the room and fixate your gaze and mind on a particular object. Focus all your thought on this object and pay attention to errant thoughts that enter your mind. As you recognize each thought, try to let it go from your mind. You don’t dwell on it or follow the chains that sprout from that thought. This will take a lot of practice at first, but you can do it.
Once you successfully trained your mind to let go of invading thoughts and calm your mind then you are ready to practice the 3-minute body scan.
The Basics of a 3-Minute Body Scan
The traditional 3-minute body scan can be performed either laying down, sitting on the floor, or even sitting in a chair. You begin by closing your eyes then noticing the weight of your body on whatever surface you happen to be on at that moment, then take a few deep breaths.
Start at your feet and pay attention to their weight, pressure, vibration, and heat. Focus on the legs next with the same concepts of as the feet. Next, momentarily recognize your back and move on to stomach area noticing if it is tense tight and letting it soften.
Take a deep breath.
Notice the tightness of your hands and let them relax. Repeat this process following from the arms, shoulders, neck, throat, jaw, and finally your face. When you reach your face go back once over your entire body and try to become aware of the presence of your entire body. Take one more deep breath and open your eyes. You have just completed a body scan.
Modifying the Body Scan for Self-Care
The body scan in a traditional sense is more of a relaxation technique, but I believe it has the power to be much more. Noticing when things are not completely right in your body and to make efforts to correct these deficiencies is a vital part of self-care.
A few teaks to the traditional body scan can serve this purpose. Perform the body scan step by step as listed above but focus your attention and thoughts on the exact feeling of each body part and flex or rotate each body part as you move along. For example when you start with your feet, rotate each foot in each direction and when you reach your stomach briefly flex your muscles in and out.
Part of our problem is that we are afraid to acknowledge that something might be wrong with us. This modified body scan is all about seeing and accepting when something is wrong. This relaxed state is designed to remove any other thoughts or concerns you might have such as why you can’t be sick or why you don’t have time to deal with this pain, and all the other multitude of reasons we give ourselves.
The Benefits of a Daily Body Scan
This new self-care body scan can be performed daily and will get easier and more beneficial the more you use it. Since it is based on meditation, it will actually reduce some psychical and mental stress related pain that you may be experiencing, but more importantly it can help you understand and fine tune your body like never before.
Remember this is a time to be honest with yourself and face that hidden pain you have been carrying around for days or weeks and once you truly acknowledge it you can find the will to make a change either by modifying your lifestyle or visiting the doctor.
Often big problems start out as small little nuisances which is why we need to be continuously aware of our well-being. The self-care body scan will be your preemptive strike to better health.
The Mindfulness 3-Minute Body Scan may only be but just one of many meditation techniques that are out there, but it is uniquely adaptable to self-care. Knowledge and practice of meditation basics such as emptying your mind of errant thoughts will prove beneficial over the long run but are not necessarily required in the self-care version of a body scan.
The more you practice taking notice and listening to your body on a daily basis, the better and healthier you will naturally become. It isn’t just enough to perform a body scan but to act on your results. Always keep in mind that this is a time to be honest with yourself and empty all the negative thoughts and baggage keeping you from the truth. You just have to ask yourself if you have three minutes a day, and I think you do.