Mental Check In
Mental Check-In: What does your body say?
The military often has a “mission first” mindset. Your parents might have talked to you about the importance of results or keeping commitments. They might have taught you to focus on your goals.
This attitude can help us accomplish a lot.
Sometimes, it can also make it hard to know how we’re doing. Mental focus can actually make us miss how our bodies are feeling.
Our mental, physical, and emotional health are closely connected. Our physical sensations and emotions work together. Being distanced from one makes it harder to recognize the other. For example, we might know we feel “off” but not know how to explain it.
Recognizing how your body feels is a great way to check in with your overall health. As we talked about before, mental health symptoms often show up as physical symptoms.
Two Ways of Checking
There are two ways to check in with ourselves.1 The first is to think about our experiences. The second is to tune in with our experiences.
Here is a quick exercise to know the difference.
1. Think about your hands without looking at them. What comes to mind? You might think about what you like or don’t like about them. You might think about things you’ve built with them or hobbies you do with them. Take your time. Notice where your thoughts go when you think about your hands.
2. Tune in to how your hands feel. Bring your attention right into your hands without looking at them. Notice your bones, muscles, and joints. Notice physical sensations. Notice the sensations of touch. Now make a fist. Notice the sense of pressure or touch. Relax your hands. Notice how the feelings change.
You can use a body scan as a useful check-in tool. During a body scan, you tune into each part of your body and the related physical sensations. You’ll move your attention from the bottom with your feet all the way up through your head.
When you check in with your body, try to practice tuning into your physical experience like we practiced above. It’s normal to fall back into thinking about other things. When that happens, tune back into your physical sensations.
- Start at your feet. Tune into your feet. What physical sensations do you feel? Warm or cold?
- Move up to your legs. How do they feel? Are they moving? Still and calm?
- Notice your belly. How does it feel? Does it feel full or hungry?
- Move your awareness to your arms and hands. Notice any sense of weight or touch.
- Notice your chest, shoulders, and back. Do they feel relaxed or tense? Are there any pain or aches?
- Move up to your head. Notice your neck, jaw, and face. How does it feel?
- Move your attention slowly back down through your body. Focus on physical sensations like touch, temperature, tension, or relaxation.
- Notice your feet and where they touch the ground.
- Good job! You finished a body scan.
1. Teasdale, J. D., G., W. J., & Segal, Z. V. (2014). The mindful way workbook: An 8-week program to free yourself from depression and emotional distress. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.