When the causes of stress in your life are beyond your control (such as a global pandemic), it can be especially tough to cope. Fortunately, meditation is an effective and readily-accessible way to take your mental well-being into your own hands. If you’re wondering what mindfulness is or how to get started meditating, you’re in luck. Follow this guide, and you’ll be well on your way to feeling calmer, happier and healthier.
What is mindfulness?
Put simply, mindfulness is the practice of observing the present moment fully and without judgment. It isn’t a religion, spiritual belief system or a type of yoga. When you’re fully immersed in an activity – such as walking, running, gardening, drawing, or even cleaning – you are practicing mindfulness. This is called moving meditation, and it can be especially helpful for people who are confined to self-isolation.
A good way to try your hand at mindfulness is to take a time-out and check in with all your five senses. What do you hear, feel, see, taste, and smell in this present moment? Even if you pick up on an unpleasant smell or an annoying sound, it doesn’t matter. There is no need to ignore or change it. The goal is to be immersed in the present moment without judgment, accepting both yourself and your environment as it is.
As great as it would be to have COVID stress immunity, none of us have this option. However, we can choose how we respond to stress. Meditation is an evidence-based way to reduce feelings of stress and improve your mood. Research has shown significant improvements in measures such as anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. When you put yourself in a better headspace and interrupt the effects of stress, it improves your overall well-being in a number of ways – from lowered blood pressure, to better sleep, to improved digestion and even more harmonious relationships.
If you’re new to mindfulness meditation, it’s best to start without expectations. Sitting and breathing isn’t as easy as it sounds, and there are many other types of mindfulness meditation exercises that may be a good starting point. Like any new skill, meditation takes practice, but you will likely feel benefits from even a few minutes a day. How long you meditate isn’t as important as how you meditate – experiencing the present moment fully and with kindness. Just as you might seek out books or lessons from a teacher when you’re learning a new instrument, it can be helpful to use a tutorial or a meditation app to get started.
Create a space
Although you can meditate anywhere, it’s helpful to have a clean, quiet, and private space to start your practice. You don’t have to overhaul your home to create a designated meditation room. Instead, start with a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed. This could be your bedroom, outside (if the weather allows for it), or in your living room. Just be sure that electronic devices are turned off (if you’re not using a meditation app) and that people in your household know not to disturb you. Once you’ve decided on a spot, declutter this area as much as possible and make sure it has good airflow. Your meditation space should feel as vibrant and positive as possible to ensure there’s no negativity infringing on your practice.
Left unattended, the mind can amplify the stress caused by COVID-19. Meditation is a great way to gently steer your awareness in the right direction and calm your mind. The goal of your mindfulness meditation practice isn’t to escape the moment or shut down stress entirely, but to relate to it in a new way – a way that can improve your health and well-being, no matter what is going on in the world.
April Meyers, a huge advocate of embracing the mind-body connection, learned first-hand – for better and for worse – how intimately they’re connected. She teaches yoga full time to help her students nurture both their physical and emotional health, and she created Mind Body Health Solution to support people far and wide in their wellness journey. Read more about her on https://www.