- Anjali Gupta
Get 5 Suggestions For Mindfulness & Meditation
Many of us have experienced some moments of anxiety during this pandemic. Anxiety can be a normal reaction to stressors in our life. However, when these thoughts become excessive or ruminative, they may begin to affect functioning. Both mindfulness and meditation have been shown in a number of studies to have positive effects on stress and anxiety. Let's find out more about how to integrate these practices into our quarantine days.
Q & A TODAY
KATE KUHN, a certified Workplace Mindfulness Facilitator and founder of Bloom Yoga, has been practicing mindfulness and yoga for the last decade.
JANINE is a leader of a Virtual Meditation Group as well as a Pilates and Aerial Yoga instructor.
Q: How can the practice of mindfulness be helpful during this pandemic?
When events happen that are out of our control (like the current pandemic) we can experience feelings of panic, stress, fear, tension and confusion. But the thing is, even if we weren’t in the midst of the current COVID-19 craziness, we would still be dealing with things that we can’t control—at work and at home. So, it’s important that we actively pursue strategies that help us navigate stormy waters with less fear and more confidence, less confusion and more clarity, less sadness and more contentment. Mindfulness can help us accept what we cannot change by developing a clearer mind and a more optimistic outlook. It helps us gain some control back—even in tough times.
Our minds are fundamentally resilient and able to respond in challenging situations. But we need to learn to put aside distractions and habits to see what is really happening in our minds. We do this by practicing mindfulness, which is training the mind to pay attention to what’s happening in the present moment. We learn to notice what is happening in the mind, body, and external environment, with an attitude of curiosity, kindness, and without judgment.
Mindfulness strengthens our ability to focus and to let go of distractions. It helps us understand that we are not our thoughts—we learn to become observers of our thoughts. We create some distance between whatever stimulus we are experiencing and our response to that stimulus.
As we practice mindfulness we become more resilient—that quality of not giving up. No matter how many times our minds wander away from the present, we learn to come back to the breath, to understand that we’ve gotten lost in our thoughts and the dramas they bring. We learn to keep going, without getting discouraged. Mindfulness meditation teaches us that we can relax in whatever the moment brings; we can lean in to adversity, we can bounce back from difficulties.
Research shows that practicing mindfulness can: reduce stress and emotional reactivity increase self-awareness, positivity, focus, concentration cultivate well-being, kindness, compassion for self and others, resilience in the face of the storm
Q: What are some helpful tips for people to start or become more regular with mindfulness?
Remember: Mindfulness is not about emptying your mind of all thought. Thoughts and thinking are normal human behaviors.
Start by simply setting a timer for 1 or 2 minutes. You can close your eyes, or if that doesn’t feel good to you, keep them open but gaze downward with a soft focus. Begin to watch your breath, focusing on the inhales and exhales. When you become aware that your mind has wandered off somewhere, notice, and gently bring your awareness back to the breath. It’s that simple. Do this a few times a day.
As your mindfulness “muscle” becomes a little stronger, extend the time to 4-5 minutes and see what happens. Notice without judgment how it feels to sit and watch your breath move in your body. Start to become aware of your thoughts as they come and go as an “observer” rather than getting swept away into their stories.
Incorporate “micro-practices” into your day, such as pausing while at your desk to take three mindful breaths. On the first breath, notice how the mind is feeling—what thoughts are present? On the second breath, notice how the body feels—are there areas of tension, butterflies, physical feelings of anxiety or overwhelm? On the third breath, ask yourself, “What do I need in this moment?” Then follow your own lead.
Know that mindfulness is a practice, and there is no wrong way to do it. Have an attitude of curiosity, kindness, compassion and a sense of humor!
Q: I think intuitively we think of meditation as a solitary practice so I was intrigued when I heard about your virtual meditation class. Can you tell us about it?
Our floating meditation class started over 2 years ago as a challenge. I asked 9 clients to pause 10 days before Christmas & give themselves a break in the middle of the busy, hectic giving season. From this floating guided meditation practice in the aerial hammocks, our virtual guided meditation evolved. When the news of the quarantine hit, I felt a strong desire to keep meditation available to those who wanted it, and more importantly, to those who needed it. The first week we had more sign-ups than ever (virtually).
I am honest and ask that they bear with me because I have never done meditation virtually.
Everyone is in the privacy of their own home, a quiet place without distraction. I zoom from the studio to provide a sense of normalcy & familiarity. Once the meditation begins, no one can hear anything but the guidance. It has been a success!
Q: How long and how often is your group meditation? Do people meditate independently between?
Our meditations are approximately 30 minutes long. We try to schedule a meditation weekly, experimenting with different times during the day. For instance, last week we tried 4 p.m. to see if it would re-energize us like an afternoon cup of coffee or tea.
I am finding people don’t take time to meditate unless it is committed and scheduled (just like a workout or conference call). There are many people who still do not understand the benefits and may think it is not for them. The people who need it the most are usually the ones who find it most challenging. Have you ever heard anyone say, "I can’t do yoga; I am not flexible"? The same applies for meditation; the busier our minds are, the more we need to learn to calm our thoughts. It is a practice, and we all must start somewhere.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for beginners trying to meditate during the pandemic?
Start with something basic. I have found meditations that place focus on the physical (such as contracting and releasing muscles timed with breaths) are a great beginner practice.
Schedule it. Start small: 10 minutes.
Be consistent. Practice like everything else.
Be comfortable. You can try blankets, pillows, and an eye cover. Your body temperature lowers as it relaxes.
Try it as a family. This is a unique time so include your children.
Thank you to Kate and Janine for the inspiration!
Here are some additional resources:
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn
Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom by Rick Hanson
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