By now, all of us have adjusted to the new reality of living in a pandemic. We wear our masks, wash our hands frequently, and practice social distancing. These are daily physical things that we do in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep our loved ones and strangers safe. But what about our mental health?
Eight months into this pandemic has produced a rise in anxiety and depression among those who generally do not experience them. In order to reduce these mental health issues, mindfulness meditation and tips may be able to help.
So, what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is one’s ability to be fully aware of the present, while calmly acknowledging all the thoughts and body sensations the person is experiencing in that exact moment. Mindfulness is not about ignoring your anxiety or depression, but instead directs your attention away from negative thoughts and forces you to be in the moment. It is human nature to have negative thoughts, but mindfulness exercises allows you to have those thought and redirect your mind to the present. Mindfulness meditation is simple to learn, but takes practice to accomplish.
There are many ways a person may practice mindfulness meditation. Here are a few mindfulness meditation options you may use and practice.
Body Scan Meditation
Lie on your back with your legs extended, arms at your side, and palms facing upward. Focus your attention slowly and deliberately on each part of your body, in order, from toe to head or head to toe. Be aware of any sensations, emotions, or thoughts that are associated with each part of your body.
Sit comfortably with your back straight, feet flat on the floor, and hands in your lap. Relax your body. Breathing through your nose, focus on your breath moving in and out of your body. Notice the rising and falling of your chest. If physical sensations or thoughts interrupt your meditation, note the experience and then return your focus to your breath.
Find a quiet place that is 10 to 20 feet in length and begin to walk slowly. Focus on the experience of walking, being aware of the sensations of standing and subtle movements that keep your balance. Notice the feel of your feet on the pavement, the way the air feels on your body, the noises that surround you, your arms swinging by your side, and the smell of the air all while walking. When you reach the end of your path, turn and continue walking while maintaining awareness of your sensations.
Find a time out of your day to practice mindfulness for at least 5 minutes. The more you practice, the more effortless it becomes. For a more structured and guided mindfulness meditation, you can download a free app on your phone called Headspace. Headspace comes with 10 free guided meditation sessions with additional content that promotes a healthier lifestyle.
In a time of so much uncertainty, I hope you continue you remain safe and practice healthy exercises that will reduce your anxiety and depression. If you feel that you need additional help, please reach out to your healthcare providers. At Sage Outpatient, mental health remains a priority in our healing process, and our Social Worker can walk you through these exercises in greater detail.
*Information about mindfulness meditation was adapted from the Mayo Clinic’s Website.