During these trying times, our mental health can take a hit. With so much access to news of tragedies around the world, it can be a challenge to stay in the moment and find healthy ways to cope. That's why mindfulness could be a great tool. In this blog, we're going to discuss everything you need to know about mindfulness and how you can practice it.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a way of thinking. It is our ability to be present, aware of where we are and what we are going -- and remain calm despite any challenges or worries. It's easy to become focused on things that stress us out or cause anxiety, and our thoughts can be totally consumed with worry. Mindfulness serves as a tool to pull ourselves back into the present, and asks us to focus on our mind and body in the moment.
Why it's good for you
Practicing mindfulness has many mental and physical benefits -- especially now. It's easy to spiral into reading the news and become fearful, stressed, and anxious.
But, mindfulness can help. By practicing mindfulness on a daily basis, you can increase its benefits. Here are a few benefits of practicing mindfulness:
- Better sleep quality and physical health.
- Lower depression, anxiety, and perceived stress.
- Fewer psychological healthcare visits.
Using meditation for mindfulness
A great way to get your feet wet is by starting with meditation. Meditation is one of the easiest and most common ways to practice mindfulness. Meditation is a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being. There are many ways to meditate, but they all have the following in common:
- A quiet location with as few distractions as possible.
- A specific, comfortable posture (sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions).
- A focus of attention (a specially chosen word or set of words, an object, or the sensations of the breath).
- An open attitude (letting distractions come and go naturally without judging them).
How to meditate
Most meditation is done by sitting with a particular posture in mind. Here's how to get started:
1. Sit down somewhere. Find a place where you'd like to meditate. You can sit on a chair, on your bed, on the floor, or on a floor cushion. Make sure wherever you sit is comfortable.
2. Find a comfortable position. If you're sitting on the floor, cross your legs in front of you. You can also take whatever seated yoga position you like. If you're sitting in a chair, make sure your feet are resting on the floor.
3. Straighten your upper body. You don't need to stiffly sit -- simply sit upright and be conscious of holding your body in place (don't hunch over). Make sure your head and shoulders are resting on top of your spine.
4. Place your upper arms parallel to your body. Your hands should naturally rest on the top of your thighs. Adjust to what makes you comfortable, but don't lean too far back or forward.
5. Drop your chin and let your eyes follow. Your gaze will naturally go downward. You can close your eyes if you'd like to, or keep them lowered.
6. Focus on your breath. Pay attention to the rhythm of your breath as you inhale and exhale. You don't have to manipulate your breathing to be slower -- unless you want to.
7. Be in the moment. With your breathing and body position in place, hang out in the moment. Focus on your breathing. If your mind starts to wander (it will), bring yourself back to focusing on your breathing.
8. Repeat as needed. You can meditate for as long and as frequently as you want. Setting a timer for five minutes or more is also a good idea.
Mindfulness & meditation resources for New Yorkers
There are many resources online to help you practice mindfulness and meditation. And for New Yorkers, Headspace has partnered with New York State to provide free meditation and mindfulness content for all New Yorkers as a mental health resource for residents coping with the unprecedented public health crisis facing the state and the nation. Headspace is a mental health app focused on easing depression and anxiety through mindfulness and meditation.
New Yorkers across the state can access a specially curated collection of science-backed, evidence-based guided meditations, along with at-home mindful workouts, sleep and kids content to help address rising stress and anxiety. Available at www.headspace.com/ny, the collection will also feature Headspace co-founder and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, who will share special video messages with the people of New York to help offer guidance, support and solidarity.