Coping with the coronavirus hasn’t been easy. If you’re still struggling to get your bearings in these stress-laden days, meditation may help you cope! Meditation — and other mindful practices like yoga, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation — can work wonders to dispel stress, calm anxiety, and fuel creativity during this tumultuous time. So whether you decide to practice at home or attend a retreat, give it a go! We've created a quick guide to help you get started on your own mindfulness journey.
Why Practice Meditation?
The mental and physical health benefits of meditation are vast. Meditation involves sitting or lying still and maintaining a gentle awareness of your breath. By turning your focus inwards and away from everything that’s going on around you — and away from that jumbled mess of thoughts constantly crowding your mind — meditation can calm your body’s stress response and alleviate any tension you’re holding in your muscles.
Beyond temporary stress relief, meditation can also improve creativity, therefore making it a valuable tool for artists and art enthusiasts. Meditation can also improve your ability to focus and concentrate, build self-awareness, increase patience, reduce negative emotions, and help you build coping skills to better manage challenging situations that crop up in the future.
Meditation and yoga go hand in hand, so if you’re looking for a new exercise to pick up in the new year, consider practicing yoga!. When it comes to yoga, there are many different types to consider. For example, We Know Yoga explains that Yin Yoga involves passive poses like child’s pose and seated stretches to help your body relax and unwind.
Preparing Your Meditation Space
When it comes to yoga and meditation, your environment will play a very important role in your ability to relax and focus. Set up a little meditation space in a quiet area of your home where you can escape from distractions. Keep this area clean and uncluttered. Incorporate soft lighting, calming artwork and décor that make you feel positive, and a touch of nature like a potted plant or painting of a forested landscape.
Other helpful items for your meditation practice include an essential oil diffuser and a comfortable cushion. If you're going to listen to meditation music or a guided meditation session, a soundbar can deliver great-quality sound to the room, allowing you to forego the need for headphones.
Meditation is a skill that takes practice to master. At first, you will likely find it very challenging to prevent your mind from wandering. Start small and try meditating for just a few minutes so you can get used to the feeling of sitting still and the quiet. Focus on your breath, paying attention to how your stomach expands and contracts as you inhale and exhale. If your mind starts to drift, gently direct your attention back to your breath.
It may help to play some relaxing music or guided meditations to keep your mind focused during your practice. Meditation apps like Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer offer a range of guided meditations that can help you get started and grow your practice.
Dealing with Distractions
The biggest challenge in meditation is dealing with distractions. Sometimes you may be able to dismiss distractions and allow them to pass without hogging precious mental real estate. Other times, however, you may need to give attention to your distractions so you can better manage them. Wildmind likens this to clearing the weeds from a garden. Give your thoughts a moment to process, see if you can reach some kind of conclusion, and bring your focus back to your breath.
Remember, dealing with distractions is an integral part of the meditation process. Instead of feeling frustrated and annoyed with your distractions, use them as a tool to practice patience and acceptance.
If you’re anxious about the pandemic, you’re not alone. These unprecedented times have led to an increase in stress levels for most people. While it’s completely natural to feel stressed during times of uncertainty, it’s also important to find ways to cope with negative feelings and protect your mental health. A daily meditation practice can do a lot to help.
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