article

The Body Scan

 
0-13.jpeg
 

This body scan exercise is designed to help you feel and bring awareness to all of the sensations that occur throughout your body. We are typically not even aware of what our body is telling us. Do we have an area that has too much pressure on it? Do we have an area that's painful? By practicing this mindfulness exercise, you can improve your body awareness and also better understand and cope with pain and difficult emotions in the body. Additionally, most people report feeling more relaxed and recharged after this practice.

STEP 1: Please sit down. Once you're sitting in your chair in a comfortable position with your eyes open or gently closed, take a moment to check in with yourself, observing how you're feeling in your body and your mind.

STEP 2: Begin to focus on your breath - wherever the sensations are strongest for you.

STEP 3: As you scan your body for sensations, try to bring an attitude of curiosity to the practice, as if you're investigating your body for the first time. Notice and feel any and all sensations that are present, such as tingling, tightness, heat, cold, pressure, dullness, or something else. If you do not feel any sensations in a particular region, simply note that and move on.

STEP 4: See if you are aware of any thoughts or emotions that arise as you move through the regions of your body. Note these thoughts and emotions and then return to focusing on the physical sensations that you're experiencing.

STEP 5: Whenever you come across an area that is tense, see if you can allow it to soften. If the area does not soften, simply notice how it feels and allow it to be as it is. Feel as deeply and precisely as you can into each region of the body, noting if the sensations change in any way.

SUGGESTED SEQUENCE OF BODY PARTS:

1. Begin with your left foot and toes and move your awareness up the left leg until you reach the left hip.

2.  Then go to the right foot and toes and up the right leg until you reach the right hip.

3. Next, move your awareness to the pelvic region and stomach, lower back to the upper back, then your chest, heart, and lungs.

4. Then your hands both at the same time moving up the arms until you get to your shoulders.

5. Then the following in this order:

·       Neck

·       Throat

·       Jaw

·       Mouth

·       Teeth

·       Tongue

·       Lips

·       Nose

·       Eyes

·       Forehead

·       Ears

·       Skull

·       Scalp

6.     Finally, become aware of the whole body and rest for a few minutes.

The body scan is a variation of Burmese Vipassana Meditation that involves scanning the body for physical sensations. This meditation is also done in various yoga practices. The body scan is used in mindfulness-based stress reduction.


TAKEAWAYS

·       The Body Scan helps you connect with different sensations in your body that you may not have been aware of.

·       It helps you mindfully experience thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations around different areas of the body.

·       It leaves you feeling relaxed and recharged.

Breathing Awareness (Exercise 1)

 
0-12.jpeg

Developing breath awareness, and learning to breathe properly, is one of the easiest ways to improve your mental and physical health. As Donna Farhi, author of The Breathing Book says, “The unconsciously altered breath allows us to survive, but it does not allow us to thrive.”

This brief and gentle mindful breathing exercise can help you create a relaxation response in your body in as little as 5 minutes:


  1. Find a relaxed, comfortable position. You could be seated on a chair, on the floor, or on a cushion. Keep your back upright, but not too tight. Have your hands resting wherever they’re comfortable. Close your eyes, if that feels comfortable for you, and just allow your breath to be natural.

  2. Tune into your breath. Feel the natural flow of breath—in, and out. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. It doesn't need to be long or short, just natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. It may be in your abdomen. It may be in your chest or throat or in your nostrils. See if you can feel the sensations of breath, one breath at a time. When one breath ends, the next breath begins.

  3. As you tune into your breath, you may find that your mind wanders- distracted by thoughts or bodily sensations. That’s OK. Just notice that this is happening and gently bring your attention back to your breath.

  4. Stay here for five to seven minutes. Notice your breath, in silence. From time to time, you’ll get lost in thought. Gently return to your breath.

You don't have 5 minutes?

When trying to calm yourself in a stressful moment and there is not much time to spare, it might help to start by taking an exaggerated breath: a deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds), hold your breath (2 seconds), and a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds). Just this simple action can activate your relaxation response.



 

Feeling Tense? A 3-Step Plan to Reduce Your Everyday Triggers

 
jonathan_spero_triggers.jpeg

What does pressure feel like? Is it tension in your body? A headache that won’t go away no matter what you do? Is it a queasy feeling in your stomach or a looming fear of what may happen if you don’t perform up to standard? 

However you define pressure, if it’s become a constant in your life, chances are it’s wreaking havoc. 

What can you do?

Plenty!

While escaping all of life’s responsibilities may not be realistic, there are things you can do to make these responsibilities FEEL less burdensome and evoke less of a stress-response.

First thing’s first: Below are a few simple tips you can use immediately to reduce your level of physical and mental tension:

• Go for a walk outdoors and feel yourself invigorated by the fresh air and sunlight- choose a natural setting, somewhere picturesque, away from loud city traffic, if possible.

• Take 10 deep, cleansing breaths; imagine breathing in fresh energy on the inhalation and picture tension leaving your body with every exhalation.

• Give yourself a head massage with your fingertips for immediate relief from cranial tension. Use the pads of your fingers and work the entire surface area of the head. Use the index and middle fingers side-by-side to make slow circular strokes at the temples for extra relaxation. 

• Take a time-out to engage in a short open-awareness meditation. This meditation style calls for you to simply relax, close your eyes, and allow yourself to breath easily while maintaining a gentle awareness of the thoughts that enter your mind without holding onto them. As thoughts arise, you are to notice them, without judgement or attachment, and then let them pass out of your awareness. In this way, you are neither trying hard to prevent thoughts nor to hold thoughts. You are just noticing them coming and going. 

Next, create a 3-Step Plan for avoiding tension buildup:

  1. Identify tension triggers, which can be defined as

    a certain task, person, time of day, thought, etc. that makes you tense

  2. Find a way to avoid/delegate/ or reduce the impact of the trigger

•AVOID: literally, AVOID this trigger

Example: “Taking Maple Avenue to work always stresses me out.”

Solution: AVOID taking Maple Avenue to work. 

•DELEGATE: identify someone who can take over this trigger for you

Example: “Always being the one to deliver the bad news to the boss on Fridays makes my stomach churn.”

Solution: Delegate others in the office to take turns giving the end-of-week report. 

•REDUCE THE IMPACT: reposition when this trigger occurs during the day, reposition other positive support measure around the trigger

Example: “My whole body feels tense after a long, focused day in front of my computer.” 

Solution: Build in mini breaks (you can set the timer on your phone) to get up from your desk to walk around, get a cup of water stretch and let your eyes take a break from the screen. On these days, commit to taking lunch away from your desk, or, at least away from your computer monitor. 

3. Rename and reframe the feeling

Tension is real, and it is the by-product of stress. Stress is also real but it is dependent upon our reaction to the world around us. 

We have a conscious choice in how we respond to our world. 

We can choose stress or we can choose to challenge stress

I am not suggesting that this change will occur overnight, it must be practiced repeatedly, just as with any new habit we wish to develop. 

The next time you notice yourself having a knee-jerk response to a situation that involves a negative, stress-based reaction, CHALLENGE it!

Ask yourself: 

Can I be intrigued by this instead? 

Can I be amused by this? 

Can I see this as a game or as part of a game or as a twist in a game? 

I encourage you to get creative! Don’t keep allowing yourself to run into the “stress ditch.” You’ve been there, you know what it feels like. It’s time to travel to other places. Remember, you have the power to chart the course from here on out!

 

If You Are Not Doing This Every Morning, You Should Start Today

 
0-2.jpeg
 

When you get out of bed in the morning and hit the ground running with barely a moment to spare, let alone a thought to yourself, you are NOT in charge of your day. You are operating on automatic, going through the motions to get you from point “A” to point “B.”

If you long to be a self-determined individual with goals and aspirations, in good physical and mental health, you need to stop operating on automatic and take the reins of your life. This begins by taking control of your day. Experts call this sense of control “agency,” and it ranks as a high predictor of good mental health. 

Setting the tone from the start of your day predicts how you move through the rest of it in terms of your attitude, focus, perspective and motivation. When you choose to be active and direct upon waking allows your time to engage in a routine that energizes, invigorates and inspires you. You send the message to your brain that 

your world is full of possibilities

 and YOU are a clear, strong, calm, and capable person able to seize them!

The best way to go about seizing these possibilities is to find one or two things that resonate with you and practice these consistently, just as you make time in the beginning of the day to shower, dress, and check your email.

Here are some ideas for daily self-care practices to fill your cup:

  1. Keep a journal or log to jot down passing thoughts, feelings, dreams, or ideas; it helps to unload if you tend to have a lot on your mind.

  2. Go for a walk in your neighborhood or at a close by park or garden so you are able to take in some fresh air and sunshine, especially if you are likely to spend the better part of your day indoors.

  3. Do some light stretching or yoga to feel back in your body, to warm up your muscles, and to relieve achiness and stiffness after a night’s sleep.

  4. Engage in a meditation or breath awareness practice. These can be one in the same as meditation, in its most basic form, is relaxation of the body and the mind with a gentle abiding awareness of the breath. There are several apps to assist you with meditation and guided breathing practices such as Headspace, Brightmind, Calm, and Meditation Time.

  5. Sit outdoors on a patio, deck or bench, enjoy the sun and fresh air and do absolutely nothing but watch the world go by and breath deeply, knowing you have things to tend to later, but for now you have absolutely nothing you need to do but be.

  6. Read from a book for pure pleasure or inspiration; sometimes just grabbing a line that inspires at the start of the day can serve as a focal point for the day and bring us back to center when things start to go haywire.

  7. Go to the kitchen and cook something slowly for yourself like warm cereal with added spices, nuts and chopped fruit, enjoying the ritual of doing something healthy for your body at a pace that supports your peace of mind.


Consider these practices a way of consolidating yourself. These simple routines help you pull your efforts inwards first towards self-care before continuing your day and putting your energy, effort, thoughts and ideas out into the world.