by Leslie Campos
Right now, stress is a pretty major part of almost everyone’s life. Since the pandemic began, rates of anxiety have skyrocketed in the US, and more people than ever are reporting that this stress is interfering with their daily lives.
Fortunately, meditation is an extremely effective way to reduce stress.
Consider Your Environment
For most people, meditation is hard at the beginning. Most of us aren’t used to focusing on the present moment and have developed the habit of letting our minds wander to other things. Although this is perfectly normal, there are steps you can take to make your environment more conducive to meditation.
For example, if you’ve spent a lot of time stressing within a location (for example, while self-isolating during a pandemic), you’re likely to associate that space with stress. As a result, it will be that much harder to let go of anxious thoughts and focus on the present. Redecorating, lighting a candle, or even just opening the windows for a while can help you reclaim your space and create more positive energy in your home. You should also, if possible, try to meditate in a room free from distractions such as digital devices.
Meditate Through Movement
When most of us picture “meditation,” we see someone sitting very still in lotus pose. This popular image isn’t wrong, but it’s also far from the only way to meditate. In fact, starting with this type of still, quiet meditation might convince you that you’re unable to meditate so you end up abandoning the practice entirely. This is especially true for kids who tend to have more energy and, as a result, often have a harder time with this type of meditation.
Instead, look for forms of meditative movement, such as yoga or tai chi. This is a great introduction to mindfulness, simply because it gives you more targets to be mindful of. If you’re struggling to focus on your breath, you can instead focus on the tension in your body, the relationship between your feet and the floor, or the feeling of wind as you move your body through the air. There are simply more sensations to attend to, which gives your mind more room to mindfully wander.
Try a Five Senses Meditation
If you’re brand-new to mindful meditation, a five senses meditation is a great tool to have in your pocket. You can do it anywhere, at any time, and it’s well-suited for children, as well. This meditation is designed to help you connect your mind and body to the present moment through the use of your senses, and only takes a couple of minutes.
Start by taking a few slow, deliberate breaths. Then, turn your attention to your sight and name (out loud or in your mind) five things that you see, four things you hear, three you feel, two you smell, and one you taste. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers here and, indeed, you may find yourself reaching to notice subtle smells or identify what odd flavor has lingered in your mouth since you last ate or drank. The things you notice aren’t important — it’s the act of noticing that matters.
Go Easy On Yourself
As we mentioned above, meditation is challenging, especially to start. If you go in aware of this, you’re far more likely to be able to embrace mindfulness in whatever degree you can from the very beginning. If you struggle with perfectionism, make that part of your practice. When you notice yourself feeling frustrated that you’re not meditating “correctly,” name it: “I notice that I am craving perfection.” The act of naming that urge is, in and of itself, an act of mindfulness and will help you continue to grow.
It’s perfectly normal to be feeling stress and anxiety about the pandemic, but those feelings don’t have to rule you. By developing a meditation practice, you and your family will learn to turn your mind to the present moment, release your stress, and experience more happiness every single day.
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