The Importance of Meditation during the Pandemic

Woman meditating

These days it’s easy to get caught up in the panic which is all around. Every time you pick up a paper or scroll through your newsfeed on social media, you are reminded of how the world is reacting to the Coronavirus. The global fear that is being felt to varying degrees by each and every one of us makes it particularly important for us to take good care of our mental health. Meditation is one very good way in which we can do this.

 

The Benefits of Meditation

Jon KabatZinn, an American professor emeritus of medicine and the creator of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction has defined mindfulness meditation as ‘the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.[1]’ The idea is to cultivate attention on the body and mind as it is moment to moment, and so help with pain, both physical and emotional. ‘“It often results in apprehending the constantly changing nature of sensations, even highly unpleasant ones, and thus their impermanence,” he says. “It also gives rise to the direct experience that ‘the pain is not me’.”[2]

A research paper found that 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation a day for 8 weeks can change the brain functions for the better by strengthening the function of the Prefrontal Cortex by developing increased grey matter in this area responsible for self awareness[3].

One can try experimenting with different techniques and decide what suits them best and then practice it daily for best results.

 

How many ways are there to meditate, and how can I do it?

There are many ways to meditate, and a variety of different meditation techniques for many purposes like cultivating compassion, loving kindness, stress reduction, to help sleep, to develop self awareness, and to let thoughts come and go, so one can avoid getting sucked into them.

A straightforward way to start could be to write down our experiences. Putting pen to paper can help empty the mind, getting lists out of our heads and visualising them.

Compartmentalising our thoughts may show some clarity and reflecting on these words at a later date could tell us something about the way we process information, therefore, helping us to understand why we feel certain constraints or that nagging feeling. Yoga has been shown to be beneficial for this, releasing pressure in the body and mind and the physical aspect will free endorphins (happy chemicals), healing and maintaining our physical and psychological health. Simple stretching and balance can realign and build strength; strong body, strong mind.

By sitting up right, and holding a good posture we can activate muscles helping us position ourselves toward life, and focusing on how the body and mind communicate we can begin to feel more at one with ourselves and surroundings by being aware and responsive to one’s core needs.  By opening our windows and turning off technology, we can make a concrete decision about what we allow to affect our body and we will hear how much the birds enjoy the sunshine. Perceiving nature and its resilience will support a connection you might have closed off in the pace of normal life.  Just sitting and listening can help reduce stress and control anxiety about being in isolation, being as close to nature as possible can help us to feel connected to it even in the confine of our four walls. Keeping a clean diet and home can minimise the effects of feeling caged in. Feeling light under foot and full of good energy will keep you focused on staying this way.

Bhikkhu Monks practice a contemplative life, not attached to the material world where they must regulate all details of daily life. They are allowed to only retain minimal possessions such as a bowl, a razor, a needle and thread for mending garments and a strainer for water, so as not to harm small insects in the water. These Monks have created a state of mind that has to cope with little but are seen as the wisest and most peaceful humans. In a way, us being in isolation may mean we learn how to deal with not having as much freedom as we usually do and could encourage us to downsize our materialistic habits. To make this easier we should comprehend the fact that we are all going through this together and there are many who are experiencing a much worse situation than us. A little solidarity and contemplative thought will dilute any tangled tension.

 

Why is it important to meditate in times of crisis?

With mental health being one of the primary drivers of worldwide disorders, now more than ever do we need to take good care of ourselves. Currently our health service in the UK is in severe demand, self care and meditation could help the public reduce the strain on an already overstretched National Health Service. There are online meditation platforms and apps available, along with private practitioners who specialise in mindfulness and meditation. Otherwise,  cathartic activities like cooking, cleaning, art or running are all options to try, even lying down and listening to or looking at artwork or pictures that calm you, eliciting an emotional release, relieving unconscious toxicity and tension. The term comes from the word katharsis meaning “purification” or “cleansing” in Greek. This process can be used in therapy and helps to restore positive change in an individual’s life.

It is normal to have feelings of hopelessness and guilt at the slowing down of productivity during these times and we may feel like the goal posts are always moving; so giving yourself realistic goals and thinking through ideals in meditation may help us. Finding an inner voice and listening to what it needs today will keep those desires manageable. Running a bath may relieve pressure as the warmth of the water resembles the womb, helping us restore our inner child, the one with no stress, pressure or financial concerns.

Any type of mediation will untie those knots of conflict in your mind and body and help guide you to perceive the world around you in a new way. With most of us stuck in the confines of our homes, adding structure and sanity breaks to our day will guide us through this surreal time. Although positive thoughts are what we think generally comes out of meditation, also feelings of (rage) anger and disappointment may appear. Think of this as a ‘better out than in’ technique, freeing these intense emotions are totally normal as nobody can hold it together one hundred percent of the time. Expression is important, but only when it’s done without feeling overwhelmed, even if it comes out whilst alone. Even if you feel fear or disappointment let these emotions be and observe them pass and acknowledge how lucky you are to be able to process them.

If you have a client, or know of someone who is struggling to find the right help for any form of mental health issue during this pandemic, reach out to us at Khiron Clinics. We believe that we can improve therapeutic outcomes and avoid misdiagnosis by providing an effective residential program and out-patient therapies addressing underlying psychological trauma. Allow us to help you find the path to realistic, long lasting recovery. For information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours)

 

Sources:

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/22/mindfulness-jon-kabat-zinn-depression-trump-grenfell (accessed 23/4/2020)

[2] ibid.

[3] Hölzel BK, Carmody J, Vangel M, et al. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Res. 2011;191(1):36–43. doi:10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006

 

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Khiron Clinics remains open for admissions.We are continuing to follow all the government advice, along with Public Health England (PHE) and the NHS guidance. We are well resourced and organised to remain as safe as possible, and are carrying out detailed protocols to minimise the risk of transmission. We have contingency plans if a resident shows symptoms (facilities for safe and comfortable isolation, or temporary return home). We have plans in place to continue therapy for residents remotely, in isolation, if necessary. We are also able to ensure that if residents have their therapy significantly reduced or disrupted they will not suffer financially. Our Ethics and Governance Board is actively overseeing of how we are managing the situation.​