19 May Here’s why meditation can help you during coronavirus
Lots of people are feeling more anxious due to the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing lockdown. Whether we’re concerned about finances, our jobs or our family’s health, there are lots of reasons for anxiety to rise right now. It’s particularly difficult for people who are fully self-isolating or shielding others.
Having no contact with other people can take its toll on our mental health, which then has a knock-on effect for our physical health. Being isolated for long periods of time can heighten or cause depression and make it difficult to remain positive. And this is where I think meditation should come in during coronavirus.
Why meditation during coronavirus could help you
We’ve known about the benefits of meditation for thousands of years. The very earliest evidence so far discovered for people meditating can be seen in various wall art discovered in India. It dates to around 5,000 BCE and shows people in various meditative poses.
Today, there is no single definition for meditation as it covers lots of different methodologies. Some of these come from religions, such as Buddhist meditation. Others are more modern interpretations, such as today’s very popular mindful meditation.
Whichever style of meditation you settle on, it will have various factors in common with all other forms. Meditation is about focusing on the breath, concentrating on our inner self and training the mind to distance itself from outside stressors. And whether this achieved through chanting, yoga or quiet practise, the goal is the same. You don’t have to sit in any specific position to practise meditation, and it can be done anywhere at pretty much anytime.
Meditating can help to manage anxiety and depression during coronavirus
Meditation can help to manage anxiety and depression. There is also evidence that it can help to boost the immune system. It won’t, of course, directly protect you from getting coronavirus, but it can help to boost your general health. Evidence shows that regular meditation can positively impact white blood cells (called lymphocytes), which produce the antibodies we need to fight off illness. Randomised trials demonstrate that regular meditation can help to lower stress levels, which in turn boosts the immune system.
There is also evidence to show that meditation can help to manage anxiety. And this is needed during the pandemic more than ever, according to a new Government survey that shows almost half of UK adults are struggling with ‘high levels’ of anxiety due to coronavirus. With regular practise, meditation can help to alleviate anxiety by encouraging your mind to stay anchored in the present moment.
It can also help to keep emotional distress at bay and manage depression. Again, this is particularly important for people who have been completely self-isolating and may not have had face-to-face human interaction for several weeks.
Meditation tips for beginners
If you’re brand new to meditation, here are some ideas and tips to help you get the most out of it.
- Use an app or online class
There are lots of meditation apps, websites and books that will help you learn how to meditate. Guided meditation using an app or audio track is the best way to start from the beginning.
I recommend trying a few different apps and decide on the one that appeals most to you. This could be because of the guided instructions, or the type of meditation. If you can’t use an app, there are lots of online classes to try. YouTube, Spotify and Audible all have guided meditation available in one form or another.
Meditation is a skill and like any other skill takes time to learn. My number one tip for beginners is to be patient. Just keep practising regularly and trust the journey. Successful meditation is about accepting your own personal state and trusting in the process.
- Begin with short, regular sessions
You won’t be able to sit down and meditate for an hour straight away. No-one would. Meditation is a skill that needs practise and time. It would be counter-productive to have unrealistic expectations of what it will feel like, and how ‘good’ you are at it. You are essentially training your brain to work in an entirely new way. Remember that this is not a race or competition.
- Set aside a special time to meditate every day
To develop the meditation habit, the best way to start is to purposefully set aside a time of day just to practise. This could be as soon as you get up, as a break in your workday or before you go to sleep. It doesn’t matter when it is, as long as it’s regular.
- Remember to enjoy it!
Try not to look at meditation as another chore to tick off your list. It’s something you’re choosing to do for your own state of mind, and that is a very powerful boost. Choose a comfortable position and a time that suits you. Try lighting a candle or wrapping yourself in your favourite blanket. This is your time so enjoy it.
Including regular meditation in your daily activities during coronavirus lockdown will help to manage anxiety, depression, sleep problems and help you generally feel more relaxed and positive. Lots of us are looking for a boost during this period of uncertainty and fear, and meditation is the ideal choice.