Counselling and
stress management
in Southampton

Body scan

Time: One to two minutes
This is adapted from the AT body scan you'd do before each Standard Exercise. Why not try it now? It may help you feel more grounded and calm.

A summary of the four steps is shown next. You silently direct yourself through a body scan with closed eyes so please ensure you fully understand the whole process before doing it.

Step 1: Settle
Step 2: Scan
Close your eyes and make sensory contact with these areas of your body as you say these, or similar, prompts silently in your mind:
• Feet > Legs > Hips > Back > Shoulders.
• Shoulders > Arms > Hands.
• Stomach > Chest > Back of head > Top of head.
• Face > Eyes > Cheeks > Jaw.
Step 3: Take a moment
Step 4: Close

Detailed walk-through
Step 1: Settle
Close your eyes as you adopt a sitting or lying position where you feel symmetrical, stable, supported and comfortable. Ideally, find a quite location where you won't be disturbed but you can also do this any time and place where you can safely close your eyes.

Step 2: Scan
As you say each prompt (see above) silently in your mind, make sensory contact with the named area for a moment before allowing your awareness to move to the next area you name. Maybe have a sense of your awareness being a wave that gently touches each place on its slow journey through you.

Some body scan practices last up to 20 minutes or even more. Not this one. 30 seconds is a fast flow and three minutes is a big, slow wave. If your mind wanders a lot during the practice, this may be a sign you need to speed things up a bit. Find a pace that works for you.

Here's a more detailed description of the body scan to give a fuller sense of how you guide your attention to flow through your body. Just use minimal prompts, such as those shown above, when doing it yourself.
• Become aware of any sounds around you and let them be.
• Turn your attention inwards.
• If you become aware of any thoughts and feelings, just acknowledge them.
• Welcome any sensations your notice in your body.
• Starting with your feet, become aware of your calves, thighs and hips.
• Allow your attention to travel easily up your spine to your shoulders.
• Then down your shoulders, down your arms to your hands and fingers.
• Up your front, from your stomach up to your chest area.
• To the back to your neck, from the base of your skull to the top of your head.
• Your awareness now flows down to your forehead, around your eyes and cheeks.
• Finally, allow your tongue to rest easily in your mouth.

Step 3: Take a moment
Just notice what's going on inside you for a while. Acknowledge any thoughts, feelings and body sensations without trying to change anything.

Step 4: Close
Take a deep in-breath and as you breathe out fully, stretch your arms upwards and outwards so you can feel a good, but safe, stretch in your shoulders. Open your eyes and look around. Rotate your shoulders if you want. Get up slowly and carry on with your day.

This step boosts your alertness, re-connects you with the outer world and formally ends the practice. If you're doing a body scan in bed at night, leave out this final step and you may find it helps you fall asleep.