Updated: Oct 21, 2021
4 steps to mastering mindfulness during a pandemic
We’ve all heard the term mindfulness, but what does it mean?
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”
Being mindful and focusing our attention on the present, without judgement, is so important these days, particularly during times that we’re living in now. Changes caused by the recent pandemic may lead us to experience heightened stress and anxiety. Centering our thoughts can have a calming effect and wash away feelings of being overwhelmed.
While some people may find the prospect of being in the present a gargantuan feat - how long can we be still for? - it is actually much easier to achieve than you think.
Here are 4 ways you can practice mindfulness in your everyday life.
1. Focus on your breath
Find a comfortable position - whether sitting or lying down. Take a deep breath, inhaling for 4 counts, hold for 2 counts, and exhale for 4 counts (4-2-4).
Focus your attention on your breathing and your body’s movement as you breathe. By paying close attention to the simple act of breathing, you give your mind a small break from your thoughts, and other factors that may be causing you stress.
2. Connect your mind and body
Have you heard of the Body Scan meditation? It is an exercise where you pay attention to the different parts of your body in a gradual sequence from the ends of your toes to the top of your head.
To do this exercise, first lie down in a comfortable position. As you breathe in and out, focus on the sensation in your toes and move upwards. If there is tension in any part of your body, inhale and exhale to release the tension. Do this all the way up to the top of your head.
3. Notice thoughts and feelings
It would be close to impossible for us to not have thoughts enter our mind as we meditate - we are human after all. As these thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them without judgement as it is OK to have such thoughts, and to get distracted. By accepting them objectively, we can freely release them, creating room for better responses to your surroundings.
As unpleasant thoughts or emotions enter your mind, take a pause by drawing a deep breath. As you inhale and exhale, try releasing those negative emotions and evaluate how you can approach those emotions with a new, more positive perspective. Sometimes the best thing we can do when we are anxious is to just breathe.
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