If you want to reduce stress, try Jon Kabat Zinn’s body scan meditation script.
This is one of my go-to methods in my online meditation lessons. Whenever someone tells me they have stress and anxiety, I’ll consider this as one of my best options for helping them. I do believe that there are more powerful meditations for stress relief.
However, it is still excellent. So let me show you how to do it.
The Jon Kabat Zinn Body Scan Meditation Script
- If you are new to meditation, read my beginners guide to meditation.
- Lie down, close your eyes, and take a few moments to relax.
- Once you’re relaxed, take a moment to check your posture. Good posture is essential both mentally and physically. Make sure you are comfortable and that your spine is in proper alignment. The best way to lie down for body scan meditation is in Shavasana. To do this, lie on the floor face-up (you might like to use a blanket or a cushion under the small of your spine). Move your legs so your feet are about shoulder-width apart. Rotate your feet a little outwards. Place your hands by your side, palms upwards. Make sure your neck is relaxed (you can use a small cushion if you like). Check that your body is relaxed, including all the muscles in your face.
- With your eyes closed, focus on the sensations throughout your entire body. Simply observe the way your body feels. It has a vibration and an energy. Get in contact with that energy. Feel it. Investigate it. Is it soft or hard? Warm or cool? Is the vibration fast or slow? Focus the mind on those sensations. Some of the sensations you experience may include tightness, coolness, twitches, cramps, buzzing, pulsing, numbness, itching, and nausea. You might also notice emotions and feelings like restlessness, irritability, fatigue, and stress as well as positive emotions like calmness and joy. Be aware of these sensations as you continue the process. The key is accepting what you observe, which is a point Jon Kabat Zinn wrote about in his bestseller Full Catastrophe Living. Trish Magyari, M.S [meditation researcher and counsellor] says that mind-body awareness is about “saying hello to your body with awareness.”
- Direct your mind to the crown of your head. Notice the sensations there. Meditate on the way the crown of your head feels. Take a moment to connect the mind to that part of your body before continuing.
- Now gradually begin to move your focus down your body, through your face. When you get to your eyes, notice if you are crying. If so, you might like to read about why you cry when you meditate.
- Continue to pass your consciousness down your neck, your shoulders, your arms, all the way to your fingers. Then proceed back up your arms to your shoulders, and then down to your feet and toes. Meditate on each part of the body before moving on.
- Once you’ve reached your toes, reverse the procedure until you are once again focusing on the crown of your head.
- Now take five minutes to meditate on the sensations throughout your entire body.
- Once you have finished, take a few moments to relax before returning to normal. This allows for a time of transition between the body scan meditation and your normal state.
- Continue to tune in to your body throughout the day in order to stay mindful.
If you would like to take meditation further, you might like to try the Osho meditation methods.
Guided Body Scan Meditation
My Top 6 Benefits of Body Scan Meditation
Both I myself and my students have found some great benefits of body scan meditation. They include:
- Reduced symptoms of anxiety
- Better mind-body connection
- Improved sleep
- Reduced symptoms of PTSD
- Reduced stress
- Increased self-awareness
- Reduced pain
- Reduced cravings associated with addictions.
1: Silencing thoughts and anxiety
Body scan meditation pauses your thoughts. And this helps with anxiety.
Many people are troubled by a constant barrage of thoughts. I know I used to be, especially during my fight with clinical anxiety.
But when you follow the body scan meditation script, you’ll quickly reduce ruminating thoughts.
It also makes us more conscious of our physical form and physical sensations, which are often the triggers for stress and anxiety.
The Journal of Clinical Psychology published research in which 93 adults with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) were given instructions in either MBSR or stress management. The group that practised MBSR reported less symptoms of anxiety. A 2019 study also showed that body scan meditation reduced the levels of stress hormone cortisol in 47 healthy students [Dana Schultchen et. al., Ulm University, 2019]
2: Emotional Awareness
The first thing you’ll notice when you do the body scan meditation script is that there’s a lot more going on in your body than you may have realised.
There are a million vibrations taking place throughout you. There are also varying degrees of tension and strain. Some areas of your body will be more relaxed than others. Some areas may be quite painful. This is good to know. The more you know about your own physical form, the more control you’ll have over it. Just by being aware of the complexity of your body, you begin to take control.
You will also notice that different emotions create different kinds of sensations in the body.
For instance, worry is almost always matched with a tightness in the chest.
It’s good to be conscious of these symptoms.
When you feel tension in your fist, for example, you will have an early warning sign of approaching anger. You can then take countermeasures (such as taking a deep breath or going for a walk).
A 2020 study led by Edward J. de Bruin [Centre for eHealth and Wellbeing Research, Department of Psychology, Health and Technology] showed that body scan meditation increases the efficacy of cognitive behavioural therapy in the treatment of insomnia in 54 teenagers.
Wing says she often recommends body scan meditation for clients who have experienced trauma, or those who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Plus, a 2015 study led by Dana Dharmakaya Colgan [School of Professional Psychology, Pacific University] revealed that practising body scan meditation helped to reduce the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in 102 veterans.
5: Cravings and addictions
If you struggle with any kind of addiction, you will notice that cravings begin with a certain physical sensation. If you smoke, you might find that your fingers itch because they want to be holding a cigarette (and if you do smoke, be sure to read my guide to quitting smoking for good).
By being aware of your craving in its early stages, you can take preventative measures. For instance, if you experience a craving for a smoke you can catch the craving in its early stage and do something different instead.
Think about it like this:
Imagine that your body is an antenna. It is always giving and receiving signals. Those signals are valuable. They tell you that in a moment you’ll be craving a smoke or feeling angry, or that you have tension in your body that could indicate an onset of some condition. Listen to those early signals. Then you can do what you need to do to prevent the situation from escalating. Prevention is everything. And body scan meditation gives you the “flag-up” warning that something is about to happen, so you can take preventative action.
6: Pain management
Body scan meditation can help you manage chronic pain, according to a randomized controlled trial published by the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
For the research, 55 participants were asked to take either a ten-minute body scan meditation or a natural history reading. The group that took the Body Scan meditation reported less pain after just one session.
As a precaution, note that some experts state that learning mindfulness without proper training in Buddhist dharma could lead to more harm than good [Miguel Farias and Catherine Wikholm, author of The Buddha Pill].
My Thoughts on the Jon Kabat Zinn Body Scan Meditation Script
I personally believe that John Kabat Zinn’s body scan meditation script is one of the best methods for relieving anxiety [READ: Best Meditations For Anxiety]
It’s a unique technique because Jon Kabat Zinn decided to take most of the Buddhism and “McMindfulness” out of it. Of course, he is very familiar with Buddhist dharma, but he created a method anyone can use, regardless of their level of knowledge or experience.
That said, I do think it is inspired by Buddhism. Indeed, Jon Kabat Zinn has mentioned previously that he first got into meditation when he attended a lecture by Zen Buddhist teacher Philip Kapleau. Certainly, the method is influenced by Buddhist Vipassana, which is one of my favorite meditations and is all about observing the world through our senses.
I do like how this method is unique though. In most other meditation techniques, we keep our focus on one thing. For instance, when you are practising beginners breathing exercises you will focus on your breathing, and your focus will stay locked on that one thing. Same with crystal meditations. You keep your focus on just one thing: the crystal. The body scan meditation script is different.
When you do a body scan meditation, you gradually pass your focus around your anatomy from your head to your toes. You observe the sensations in each part of the body and then focus on the entire body. This enhances the mind-body connection. It also increases awareness of different physical sensations. This can help to reduce your reactions to sensations that trigger stress and anxiety.
I love using this method with my students to help them relieve stress and anxiety and gain more emotional control.
Research has proven that this method is excellent for stress and can help to increase relaxation. Hence why it is part of the 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course, which Jon Kabat Zinn designed at the University of Massachusetts Medical School to help people struggling with chronic pain at the UMass Stress Reduction Clinic.
Why not let me lead you through body scan in a private meditation lesson.