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Dedicating a little time to tune into your body fortifies you to better handle the stresses of daily life.
How to Do This Practice:
1. Find a quiet place where you feel safe and comfortable. You can be standing, sitting, or lying down. Make sure that you feel relaxed.
2. Close your eyes, and take a few deep, long breaths.
3. Move your attention through your body slowly, part by part, starting with your feet. Focus on your feet, then your calves, knees, and so on, until you get to the top of your head. Without judgment, notice what sensations you can identify in each part of the body.
4. When your mind wanders, gently and with self-kindness, guide your attention back to the part of the body you’re focusing on in the present moment.
More resources from The Greater Good Science Center:
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We’re living through a mental health crisis. Between the stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, burnout — we all could use a break to feel better. That’s where Happiness Break comes in. In each biweekly podcast episode, instructors guide you through research-backed practices and meditations that you can do in real-time. These relaxing and uplifting practices have been shown in a lab to help you cultivate calm, compassion, connection, mindfulness, and more — what the latest science says will directly support your well-being. All in less than ten minutes. A little break in your day.
Dacher Keltner Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing: Stop now and take a deep breath. Notice the feeling of your belly expanding, and chest falling as you exhale. And on the next inhale, notice the temperature of the air moving through your nostrils. And then the temperature of the exhale. Our bodies experience so many sensations, whether we notice them or not. When we make it a point to tune into them, we can actually train our minds to focus. Like strengthening a muscle.
I’m Dacher Keltner, welcome to Happiness Break. Today I am going to lead you through one of my favorite practices, the body scan meditation. The body scan involves paying attention to momentary physical sensations beginning with the feet and ending at the head …. Slowly moving your awareness all throughout the body.
Scientific studies show that doing the body scan daily for just a week can help curb ruminative thinking, when you can’t seem to stop going back to the same thought over and over. It’s associated with lower depression and anxiety. It can help mitigate chronic pain and support better sleep. It can improve focus and self awareness.
And recent study shows that it helps the prefrontal cortex regulate the amygdala which is a threat system of your brain. What that means psychologically is your amygdala isn’t guiding vigilance to potential threats in the environment and you can handle your daily life with a little bit more calm. So when you’re ready, settle in somewhere comfortable, you could be sitting or laying down…and we’ll get started.
Find a nice place, where you feel safe and comfortable and where there is quiet. And once you’ve found that place. You can be standing or you can be sitting, but make sure that you feel relaxed. And if you’re sitting, keep your hands stay on your knees and your thighs, have a nice upright posture.
If you’re standing just feel relaxed, let your hands dangle to their sides. Close your eyes, and we’ll begin. So let’s take a nice deep breath in, counting to four, and breathing out again count to four. As you breathe in, expand your belly and your chest and fill your lungs with air. As you breathe out, pull in your abdominal muscles. And follow the air through your lungs, your throat, and your nose. Again, expanding the chest, filling your lungs with air. And breathing out, following the rhythm of the air.
Now breathing into that count of four, direct your attention to your feet firmly on the ground. Breathing out, wiggle your toes, feel your heels. Breathing in. Move your attention to your ankles, and your calves. Breathing out, move your attention to your knees. They do such good work for you. Continuing our breath, breathing in. Move your attention to your thighs into the base of your spinal cord.
As you breathe out, move your attention or your awareness into your stomach. Feel the air be pushed by your stomach muscles, through your lungs, your nose and your mouth. Breathing in. Move your attention up your back to your shoulders, relax your shoulders. And as you breathe out, you may want to rotate those shoulders just to at least that tension. Breathing in. Move your attention through your throat and into your face. And as you breathe out, relax your brow and your jaw, just relax them, feel their calmness.
Breathing in. Direct your awareness to the top of your head. As you breathe out, you may feel tingling sensations up there, perhaps. Breathing in, again. Move your attention to your hands. Resting in space or sitting on your knees. And as you breathe out, see if you can feel the pulse in your hands or your fingers. Let’s take another couple of deep breaths together.
And on this last breath in, let’s open our eyes. And as we breathe out, let’s just think about how many of us may be doing this together in a shared body scan. I’m Dacher Keltner, thanks for taking this Happiness Break with us. We’d love to hear how this body scan practice went for you. Email us at email@example.com or use the hashtag happiness pod.
Happiness Break is a production of PRX and UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.