What is a guided body scan meditation? A body scan meditation is a type of meditation, in which we focus on the different parts of the body to help us reach a more calm and meditative state. A body scan typically starts by putting focus either at the head and moves downward through the body or at the feet and moves upward through the body. We focus on breathing into each part of the body, which helps us relax our breathing and breathe more deeply.
What are the benefits of a guided body scan? Simply by breathing into a certain place in our body, we bring our consciousness and our energy there, and this brings natural relaxation to all of the different parts of the body on which we focus. Relaxation allows our bodies to begin to enter the parasympathetic mode of restoring and repairing. It is in this state that the body begins to heal itself from the detrimental effects that stress, anxiety, and depression can bring. The body scan also gives our minds something to focus on in the present moment, which is hugely important when dealing with depression and anxiety.
There is a growing body of research that shows that anxiety is associated with thinking about future-oriented thoughts or ‘what could happen‘ and depression as well as anxiety are associated with thinking about ‘what has happened.’ In other words, our minds are thinking about the future and the past. When our minds are fully focused on the present moment fully, the triggering thoughts for anxiety and depression can no longer exist. A tool like the body scan can help us lessen our current level of anxiety or depression by bringing the mind into the present moment. Continuous practice of meditation and body scan technique can help to retrain the brain to focus on the present and can have a big impact on our resilience when battling stress, anxiety and depression.
Stress, depression, and anxiety are conditions that require prolonged periods of stressful events and/or thinking. Therefore, it will likely take time to begin to retrain the mind and relax the body enough to heal from these conditions. Sometimes when we are feeling bad, we wish for a quick fix, which simply does not exist for chronic issues. Meditations such as this body scan, however, can have profound healing effects when practiced regularly over time alongside of conventional treatment (as prescribed by a doctor or mental health professional).
Body scans were hugely helpful for me when I went through postpartum anxiety after the birth of my daughter. Some days, I got really frustrated with meditations because my mind would wander over and over again, and I would get upset with myself for not being able to focus. This is unfortunately a normal response for many people, and if it is the case for you, it is important to remember that the goal is not to clear your mind but rather to simply engage in the practice of returning your mind to the the body when you notice it has gone off into thought. The calming of your mind and slowing thoughts are side effects, not a goal. Just noticing that your mind has wandered is being mindful. So thank yourself for being able to do that and for noticing when you do.