• Woman reflects herself and looks down dreamily.

    Body scan: Inner peace in ten minutes.

    Feeling stressed or having trouble getting to sleep? This meditation technique will help. A guide to taking a mini time-out during a busy day.

Rapid recharge.

Demanding bosses or customers, difficult colleagues and a pile of work to get through, and commitments to family and friends on top of that, and somewhere at the bottom of the list of priorities: your own needs. “How can I find time for myself in a day that’s already too full?” is a question many people ask – but it doesn’t have to take long to achieve a calm and relaxed state. With the body scan technique you can very quickly feel revitalised.

Woman in different mirrors.
Hand taps different mirrors.

Guided mindfulness.

The practice of “mindfulness-based stress reduction” (MBSR) developed by the molecular biologist Jon Kagat-Zinn in the late 1970s can help people who suffer from sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, headaches or migraine. One of the techniques involved is the body scan, in which mindfulness is targeted strategically at the body’s state of being. Whether used preventively or in acute stress situations, the body scan can generate inner calm and relaxation. The best part is that the exercise is extremely easy and only lasts for ten minutes.

  • Woman raises mirrors and swings hair.

How the body scan works.

The body scan is not about changing anything or achieving an objective, but simply about gaining an awareness of what is happening in the moment – without making any sort of judgement. It may be a thought, a mood or a feeling; let them come and go without dwelling on them. This guide will help you to practise the body scan successfully. Make sure that you have ten minutes in which you won’t be disturbed.

1. Lie on your back and find a comfortable position to lie in during the exercise. If you feel the cold easily, cover yourself up. If you prefer to sit, make yourself comfortable on a chair or in an armchair. Set a timer for ten minutes and close your eyes.

2. To relax properly it helps if you first tense your muscles: raise your right leg, tense it, relax it again and lower it. Now do the same with your left leg. Now raise your pelvis, tense your back and relax again. Raise your arms, clench your fists and then relax them. Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, then relax. Lie completely still, become aware of your body as a whole and observe the natural flow of your breath.

3. Now turn your attention to your individual limbs. To help target your awareness to the different parts of your body you can try imagining that you are breathing in and out through them. Scan your body: your toes, the soles of your feet, your ankles and calves, your knees, thighs and hips, from your bottom to your back and arms up to your shoulders, neck and head. If you notice that thoughts are forming, direct your attention back to your breathing and the particular part of your body you are scanning. Let your feelings and thoughts come and go.

4. At the end of the exercise you will sense your body as a whole again, from the soles of your feet up to your scalp. Feel the floor bearing your weight beneath you, and the air that surrounds you and your body. Remain lying or sitting still for a minute.

5. Breathe more deeply, inhaling and exhaling consciously. Say a few words of affirmation if you like – either out loud or to yourself – such as “I am full of strength and vigour” or “I’m looking forward to the rest of the day”. Move your feet, hands and arms. Have a good stretch, as if you had just woken up. Slowly sit or stand up.

Woman lying next to mirror.

Conscious relaxation when you’re out and about.

If you don’t happen to be at home or in the office when your body and mind need a time-out, you can do the body scan in a sitting position while you’re out. If you’re not happy to close your eyes in public just leave them open. With a bit of practice you will find it becomes easier to practise the structured body scan even in a noisy environment. Ten minutes is plenty of time for this exercise, but if you want to take longer that’s fine. Many people find it helps to have someone talk them through the exercise while they’re learning it. You can find plenty of sources for this on the internet. Or you can have this guide read to you and direct you through the body scan. Whenever you are overcome by the urge for a time-out you now have a tool you can use to switch off and find peace, wherever you may be.