Body Scan Mindfulness Exercise for Pain Conditions

Mindfulness has so many meanings to us. It’s about breathing, being present in the moment, listening to your body, connecting with your thoughts and emotions. Sometimes it means sitting still and quiet, aware of where we are and what we are doing. Mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, however it is more readily available when practiced on a daily basis.

Mindfulness practice can also go hand in hand with self-healing methods to manage stress, anxiety and even pain. According to a recent article by the Harvard Medical School, released in their HEALTHbeat publication on June 15, 2019, stress reduction expert Jon Kabat-Zinn recommends the body scan mindfulness exercise as the best form of mindfulness meditation for pain conditions.

Kabat-Zinn advises practicing mindfulness meditation every day for 45 minutes, even if it seems boring or doesn't seem to be helping. The goal of the body scan is not to relieve the pain completely, but to get to know it and learn from it so you can manage it.

To try out his technique, follow these steps to enjoy a mindfulness meditation body scan exercise:

  • Lie on your back or in any comfortable, outstretched position.

  • Close your eyes and focus on your breathing, and feel your belly expanding gently when you inhale and receding when you exhale.

  • Focus on your left foot. Feel any and all sensations in this area, including pain. Try to recede a little more into the floor every time you exhale.

  • When your mind wanders, observe where it has gone and gently return your focus to the foot without judging yourself.

  • If you notice pain, acknowledge it and any thoughts or emotions that accompany it, and gently breathe through it. See if by carefully observing the discomfort, you can help your body to relax. Don't expect the pain to abate; just watch it with a mindful but non-judging mind.

  • Gradually, let go of the focus on your left foot completely—even if any pain there hasn't gone away or has intensified—and move on to the left ankle and repeat the process. Slowly and patiently, proceed this way throughout the body.