It’s fair to say that most people are now feeling the mental effects of the restrictions that have been put in place to help combat and slow down COVID-19. People may be feeling higher stress and anxiety levels, as well as BOREDOM! With more time on our hands, however, social distancing provides the opportunity to learn a new skill. Learning mindfulness, a skill which teaches us how to clear our minds and focus, may be useful to try to alleviate some of the mental effects of the Covid-19 restrictions.
Mindfulness can enhance an individual’s coping abilities to everyday challenges. Mindfulness cultivates greater awareness of the unity of mind and body, as well as the ways unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviours can interact with our emotional, physical, and spiritual health. By lowering blood pressure and reducing overall arousal and emotional reactivity, meditation has been shown to positively effect stress and stress-related disorders. Research has found that on average, you only need to practice 10 minutes of mindfulness per day to experience the benefits!
For the next week, put aside 10 minutes per day and try the below mindfulness exercise yourself! Try find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed, and remember, like any new skill, mindfulness takes practice. Try not to get discouraged if you don’t manage a full 10 minutes your first time!
- Sit with your back upright and put your feet flat on the floor. Place both hands on your lap.
- Close your eyes or soften your gaze and take a big deep breath. Let it out slowly and repeat.
- Become aware and focus your attention on your breathing. Breath in and become aware of the air flowing into your lungs. Breath out, relaxing your body with every breath out.
- As thoughts begin to enter your mind, acknowledge that they are there and gently let them go.
- When you are ready, bring your awareness to the physical sensations in your body. Starting with your head and slowly scanning down to your toes. As you do, take note of where in your body you feel the most tension. Is it in your neck? Is it in your shoulders or back?
- Try not stay too long on each body part. Bring your attention to it for a moment and then move on to the next.
- When you have finished your body scan, bring the focus of your attention back to your breath and stay with it for a moment. When you are ready, move the spotlight of your attention to one of those places in your body where you felt the most tension.
- Using your breath begin to visualise yourself breathing into the muscle. Use that in-breath to gently bring awareness right into the sensations of tension within the muscle.
- As best you can, try as you breathe out, to have a sense of letting go, or releasing, on the out-breath, and relax the muscle as you do. Repeat this a few times and then return your attention to your breathing.
- Then if you feel like it you can go back to the previous point of tension or towards a new one, repeating the last instructions and returning back to your breathing after a short while.
- Do this for 10 minutes or as long as you feel you want to. Then when you are ready bring your attention back to the present.
You should also consider the food that is fuelling your body, while on lockdown. Read our six tips for improving wellbeing through diet.
Written by Alannagh Kelly