THESE extreme and unprecedented times that we’re all going through is likely taking its toll on everyone.
You will no doubt feel daily, and perhaps even hourly, a flip-flopping of emotions, as your mind tries to adjust to what is a shocking situation.
In the seconds after you wake do you lie there trying to figure out if it was all just a bizarre dream, only to realise it’s a new reality?
You will undoubtedly feel vulnerable and cut off from the rest of the world as you enter lockdown and you find that you now must adjust to an alien state of mind.
As you get used to your new reality, you should take steps to make sure you look after your physical and mental health in these trying times.
There are some very simple, yet incredible, ways that you can maintain your physical and mental health:
These activities have numerous known cognitive benefits which include enhanced focus, decreased mind wandering, improved emotional response and more. In addition to this, Yoga, Meditation and Breathwork can be used to help you overcome anxiety, restlessness, depression, PTSD and mental fatigue.
Breath-focused meditation and yogic breathing help instill serenity and release pent-up emotions, grudges and traumas, which ultimately affect your mental state.
‘The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.’
How can meditation help me relax?
Meditation can help you become less reactive as it nurtures your emotional and spiritual self.
Are there any medical benefits?
There are many proven benefits of meditation including reduced anxiety and depression, blood pressure control and pain management.
How does it work?
Meditation synchronises the whole brain so that both hemispheres act as one, putting you in a hyper-focused state.
Studies have been carried out at different universities including UCLA, Harvard and Yale, concluding that meditation changes the structure of the brain, increases the ability of memory and learning, and decreases fear, anxiety and stress.
It has even been shown to act as an effective anti-depressant as the brain is plastic (can change and adapt) and learns through stimulus. The more consistent you are with meditation, the greater the effect it can have.
How long should I meditate for?
When you first start meditating you may find it hard to ‘switch off’ and think that you have too many thoughts whirling around your head; however, in time you will have fewer thoughts and at some point be able to get into a meditative state easier. As you undergo mindfulness training you will be able to not only see but understand your thoughts and separate yourself from them.
In the beginning, start with 5 minutes, and continually build upon this to reach your desired mindfulness time – 20 minutes per day has shown to be effective. Taking time out of your day to unwind, be present, and relax your mind is of vital importance in maintaining mental and physical wellbeing.
Consistency is king. The more consistent you are the more effective meditation is. Because you are training your brain, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Visualise and think of mindful mediation like any other muscle, it takes time and practice to build.
How do I meditate?
The process of meditation is straightforward, easy, and free.
Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, focus on your breath and let your mind work its magic.
Simply and slowly breathe in for five breaths, hold for five, and breathe out for 5.
To help you switch off, you can start by scanning your body, from your head to your toe and acknowledging the sensations and how each body part feels. Take it back to your breath and concentrate. You can play relaxing music, jazz or use a guided meditation on an App or YouTube.
The easiest way to ensure you are consistent with your meditation practice is to add it to your routine. Most people find it best to do this in the morning e.g. after brushing their teeth and before a morning coffee, for others they prefer an evening practice to release stress and tension from the day.
Find a ‘go-to-place’ where you can practice your meditation to make getting into a routine that little bit easier.
Remember there is no right or wrong so be patient with yourself, become aware of your thoughts but remember to let them go and come back your breath. They are only thoughts.