Taking Care of Me: Mindfulness in COVID-19
By Aksia Funmaker
The practice of meditation is one of the easiest and most effective ways that we are able to quiet the endless chatter of daily life and bring peace to our minds. My dad once told me that wherever you pray, that is the center of the universe. I think about that a lot, and even though he is referring to a different type of meditation, it applies here just as well. When you meditate, you become a still point in an often tumultuous world.
Meditation is easy, but requires practice, you only have to sit, close your eyes, and breathe. The goal is essentially to clear your mind, focus on just your breath, and let all the unnecessary thoughts slip right by. Mindfulness is another very similar method of stress relief, the difference being that meditation is usually done in sessions of a few minutes to an hour, and being mindful is more constant. The two go hand-in-hand, and in this article I will give a brief overview of each, along with some tips to get the most out of your minutes.
When do you feel the most present?
Mindfulness is when we feel fully present, aware of where we are, what we are doing, and what’s going on around us. When focusing on the present, it allows us to quiet the noise that often fills our minds like static. Being mindful and practicing meditation can help you get better sleep, and reduce stress and anxiety. If practiced studiously it can even help reduce chronic pain.
I am the most mindful when I am watering the plants in my garden, it is when I feel the most grounded and fully aware of what is happening around me. I notice the warm breeze rustling the leaves, the sounds of birds singing in nearby trees, and the feeling of the sun on my skin. I often take a moment to breathe deeply and that simple act immediately puts a smile on my face. For you this moment might be some place else like taking a hike through the mountains, spending time with all of your loved ones, reading a book, or taking time to oneself when the kids are down.
Finding peace in and around yourself daily might seem challenging but it’s helpful to remember that mental health is a series of small steps and if you miss a step or two don’t worry, just keep on going! It’s easier than you think to build healthy habits. An easy first step is simply putting down your phone when you feel yourself wanting to waste time on social media. Instead use those few minutes to close your eyes, take one or two deep breaths, and try to feel the environment around you. It is also important to use your other senses. Are you sitting down? If so, how does your chair feel? Is there a scent in the air? What sounds can you hear around you? For these few minutes (or even just 30 seconds) try not to think of anything other than the simple things your senses are telling you. When you open your eyes, thank yourself for what your body allows you to experience. I personally like to wrap my arms around myself and give myself a quick hug too, that’s it! You can go right back to whatever you were doing before, and hopefully you will take a little bit of serenity with you.
Simple Steps to Practice Meditation:
- Find a quiet spot.
- Sit or lay comfortably.
- Focus on your breathing, feel your breath entering and exiting your body.
- Simply observe your thoughts as they pass by, help keep your mind clear by always coming back to focus on your breath.
- Optional; play a guided meditation on your phone, there are links below that I have found to be helpful.
- Aim for 5 minutes a day, morning or evening can be an easy time to fit it in.
- Be patient with your progress, and remember that this does not come naturally to everyone.
Being mindful will naturally lead to having a positive outlook if practiced daily. To practice mindfulness you should pay attention to the positive aspects in your life even if they are small. You can think about your children’s smiles, your elders still being with you, or even the food you ate for dinner. During your daily routine, take a moment to appreciate the sun streaming through a window, watch a few leaves dance in the air as they fall from a tree, or listen to the white noise hum of the city.
Reminding others around you to be more mindful can be a great way to bring more positivity into your own life while also nurturing the well-being of loved ones. I like to randomly insert a bit of gratitude whenever I can. I’ll say to my mom, “Isn’t it a beautiful day?”, then take a big deep breath. More often than not, she’ll look up from whatever she’s doing and take a little look around too. Usually if I take a deep breath she will as well, like yawning – it’s contagious! Even just these few seconds of connection and recognition of thankfulness puts us both in a better mindset, it’s subtle but effective. If you want to be less subtle, a quick neck rub can make anyone zone out and relax for a moment. It’s easy to be mindful and fully present during a massage.
Self care can be as simple as being mindful. We need to remind ourselves that the small moments are what make up our lives, and stopping for a few seconds to reflect upon them helps to give our lives substance and meaning.
Resources to learn more about mindfulness and meditation;
5 Minutes https://youtu.be/inpok4MKVLM
10 Minutes for beginners https://youtu.be/U9YKY7fdwyg
10 minutes for sleep https://youtu.be/aEqlQvczMJQ
10 minutes for anxiety https://youtu.be/O-6f5wQXSu8
15 minutes for self love https://youtu.be/itZMM5gCboo