Paying more attention to the present moment can improve your mental wellbeing.
Many physical discomforts such as headaches and back pain are results of muscles being contracted due to stress and our emotions.
Bodyscan can help to release tension that you might not even realize you’re experiencing, and it is simply done by paying attention to parts of the body and bodily sensations in a gradual sequence from feet to head.
“By mentally scanning yourself, you bring awareness to every single part of your body, noticing any aches, pains, tension, or general discomfort.
The goal is not to relieve the pain completely, but to get to know it and learn from it so you can better manage it.” (Elizabeth Scott on Body Scan Meditation).
If practiced often, bodyscan can bring many mental and physical health benefits, helping you to sleep better and feel more relaxed throughout the day.
Bodyscan is very simple to do! Here are some pointers to help you to establish this practice and get the most out of it:
- Find a nice place to do this activity: Make sure everybody knows you are taking some time off to do it so that you don’t get interrupted.
- Make sure you are comfortable: It is preferable to lay down, so keep some cushions handy to place under your head and your knees. Spend some time adjusting them until you feel super comfy.
- Keep warm: You don’t want to get tense because you are cold
- Focus on your breath: Spend some time initially paying attention to how your belly raises as you breathe in, and shrinks as you breathe out. Breathe normally, don’t over do it.
- Do some of it even if you don’t have a lot of time: You can always do an abbreviated version of this bodyscan, even sitting on a chair at the office.
- It will get easier and easier with time and practice!
Watch a guided video with Jagjit.
Here are some links for further information:
Body Scan Meditation – Release Tension With This Targeted Meditation Technique. Very Well Mind. A good summary with explanations on health benefits and a summary of the practice.
Mind for better health. Mindfulness. Provides information on mindfulness, how to practice it and how it can help with mental health problems.
Mindfulness – Mental Health Foundation. A great article with evidence on benefits of mindfulness.
Here is some background information on Mindfulness written by the NHS:
It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much.
Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing.
You can check your mood using this simple mood self-assessment quiz
Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”. Mindfulness can help us enjoy life more and understand ourselves better. You can take steps to develop it in your own life.
What is mindfulness?
Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.
“It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour,” he says.
“An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.
“Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment.
“It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.”
How mindfulness helps mental wellbeing
Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better.
When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience afresh things that we have been taking for granted.
“Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience,” says Professor Williams, “and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful.
“This lets us stand back from our thoughts and start to see their patterns. Gradually, we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over and realise that thoughts are simply ‘mental events’ that do not have to control us.
“Most of us have issues that we find hard to let go and mindfulness can help us deal with them more productively. We can ask: ‘Is trying to solve this by brooding about it helpful, or am I just getting caught up in my thoughts?’
“Awareness of this kind also helps us notice signs of stress or anxiety earlier and helps us deal with them better.”
Mindfulness is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a way to prevent depression in people who have had 3 or more bouts of depression in the past.
See the NICE guideline on depression in adults.
Different mindfulness practices
As well as practising mindfulness in daily life, it can be helpful to set aside time for a more formal mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness meditation involves sitting silently and paying attention to thoughts, sounds, the sensations of breathing or parts of the body, bringing your attention back whenever the mind starts to wander.
Yoga and tai-chi can also help with developing awareness of your breathing.
You can watch this short mindful breathing exercise video on YouTube from Every Mind Matters.
Be Mindful is an online course for reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
Is mindfulness helpful for everyone?
“Mindfulness isn’t the answer to everything, and it’s important that our enthusiasm doesn’t run ahead of the evidence,” says Professor Williams.
“There’s encouraging evidence for its use in health, education, prisons and workplaces, but it’s important to realise that research is still going on in all of these fields. Once we have the results, we’ll be able to see more clearly who mindfulness is most helpful for.”
More tips for wellbeing
There are other steps we can all take to improve our mental wellbeing. Learn more about the 5 steps for mental wellbeing.