The year of 2020 has proven tumultuous for many. What’s a simple, low-cost, readily available way to take care of your mental health during this time? Try meditation. This ancient method has made its way into cutting-edge research over the last few decades, proving even to great skeptics its amazing results.
With election season and the era of social distancing, relationships these days have extra layers of added tension. However, as Brené Brown posits, we are “hardwired for connection.” Connecting with others is crucial to our mental health and well-being – so if you’ve been feeling lonely and isolated this year, you’re certainly not the only one.
Stress and low social connection has been linked to decreased physical and mental health. In fact, stress and a lack of social connection disrupt the immune system and has even been shown to be a greater risk factor to your health than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure. Higher amounts of the stress hormone shuts down parts of the immune system and increases inflammation, making one more susceptible to disease. Isolated individuals are at greater risk for depression and anxiety. If there’s ever a time we need to take care of our mental health, it’s now.
Here’s 5 ways meditation can help you through this uncertain time in history.
Improves your health.
You can affect your body at a cellular level through meditation, and that includes your immune system. In fact, meditation has been shown to improve immune function and behavioral responses to stress. Using meditation has also been linked to reducing pain and inflammation, improving brain function, and more.
Improves your happiness.
Need more joy than fear at this time? Meditation can be your answer. It’s been shown to increase positive emotions, including compassion, and decrease anxiety, depression, and stress. Worried about what you’re hearing in the news? Meditation can also help reduce your body’s fear-based responses. Need a break from the outside world? Dive into your inner world, and you can eventually see a well of peace and joy at your core. A regular meditation practice allows you to dip back into this well as you need to continually throughout the day to increase happiness and positivity.
Improves success and productivity.
Whether you’re working from home or at an essential workplace, meditation can improve your focus, memory, and productivity. Even for people with anxiety, just 10 minutes of meditation can create boosts in focus, as shown in this study. Meditation can also help your creativity and ability to think outside the box, according to research by Jonathan Schooler at the University of Santa Barbara.
Improves your relationships & social connectedness.
Election season have you burying your head in your hands at your family’s social media posts? Social distancing have you quarantined with dear loved ones – who are also driving you crazy? Don’t worry, meditating can help your emotional intelligence and feeling of connection. It can also help you become more compassionate, which is an important part of any relationship – but especially in these times. Use these meditation-derived superpowers to help ease any tensions with those who you may have differences with!
This time is also a crucial time for us to (figuratively) lean on each other for support. Social distancing does not have to be the same as social disconnection – now, more than ever, we need connection. Meditating daily can help you increase your feeling of social connection during what can be a lonely and isolating time. Even meditation doesn’t need to be lonely – there are many opportunities to meditate in virtual groups, particularly through social media and YouTube.
Improves your perspective.
In an unprecedented time of uncertainty and fear, meditating even for just a few minutes daily can increase your feelings of gratitude and altruism. We can be more open-minded to hearing others’ perspectives with less triggering powerful emotions of our own. Now, more than ever, it is important to focus on what we are grateful for. The list of things we may have previously taken for granted could be a mile long – but with the loss of many of these things, we can pay attention to what is truly important in our lives. For my family, we are so grateful to be spending this time with each other and to have our health intact – among many other things we’ve come to realize.
An important piece of self-care and mental health.
Meditation can be a fabulous part of your daily mental hygiene habits – just as you take care of your physical hygiene, you can also take care of your mind. Better still if you can do it daily, as the effects are cumulative and build up over time. Taking care of our mental state is crucial at this time when we can sink into fear and despair. I encourage you to try it today.
There are so many different ways to meditate – so feel free to experiment to find what works for you! Here are some resources to get you started.
- Alternate nostril breathing
- Tapping (and see the book to read more about the science behind it)
- The Happiness Program
- Loving-kindness meditation
- Gratitude meditation
- Ujjayi (victory or fire) breath
- The Tapping Solution
- (Plus many more, find one you like!)
- A Life Worth Breathing by Max Strom
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