Note: This article is built on the expertise provided by Apeksha Trivady, a psychologist based in Mumbai. You can learn more about her by scrolling towards the end of the article.
How practicing mindfulness can help you cope with self-isolation during COVID-19
Mindfulness is a practice that helps focus our attention on the here and now. It helps us acknowledge the thoughts we’re having without judging them. In these times of uncertainty and unpredictability, learning how to notice our thoughts without giving them too much attention (that leads to catastrophization, panic hoarding, etc.) can help us become calmer and more rational.
How can mindfulness help?
Imagine this – there’s music playing and there’s nothing you can really do to change it or stop it. Some of us may try and tune it out or talk about how much we hate it- or we dive into the deeper meaning of the music and let it consume us.
In both scenarios, the music is impacting us greatly- which we may not ALWAYS want. What mindfulness will help us do- is to observe the music playing, accept that it is playing and just listen to it play. The music may never stop, but the process of ‘Observe- Accept- Let go’ helps manage the emotions following every thought. And the thoughts which then follow every emotion that sends us spiraling.
It detaches us in a certain way from the thoughts we have and helps us view them as an outsider. Now observing them might be easy, but accepting them and letting them go can be hard- but you’ll notice it becoming better with practice.
- Starting Out. For about 5-10 minutes every day (or according to what you’re comfortable with), seat yourself in a meditative position and bring your awareness to your breathing. Feel the air going in and coming out.
- Flow of Thoughts. After a few breaths, bring your attention to your thoughts. You will see your thoughts are words, images or something else. Every thought may give rise to the next or you may have new thoughts emerging. The thoughts may be positive and enjoyable or negative and challenging. Your task is to notice your thoughts- and watch them go by- trying not to add any meaning to them. Notice a thought- ‘here is a thought about —–’ and watch it go by. Notice a feeling- ‘here is a feeling of boredom’ and watch it go by.
- Taking a Step Back. From time to time, you will lose track of this exercise and your thoughts will drift- when you feel this happens, return your attention to your breathing and start noticing your thoughts again.
Helping Guide: What is most helpful is to visualize a scenario- what helps me is visualizing that I’m lying on the grass and looking up at birds flying across the sky. Whenever I notice a thought, I simply place the thought on a bird and watch the bird fly away.
One Step at a Time. This exercise may be difficult, especially if you have never done it before- Headspace and Calm are apps that give you access to guided mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness is something we can do with almost anything – we can mindfully walk, mindfully eat – here’s how you can try it:
- Say you want to eat a grape.
- Place the grape in between your fingers, feel the texture of the skin, hold it up against the light and look at how its color changes. Take a whiff of its scent, notice how its smells- sweet, sour, both.
- Close your eyes and place it on your mouth, feel its texture with your tongue, roll it around- gently bite it- not hard enough to sink your teeth in but enough to know how soft it is. Notice how it tastes. Notice how you’re feeling while you’re eating it. Notice how you feel immediately after you ate it.
- If this is hard to do in your head, say it out loud or write it down.
Mindfulness Made Simple
Headspace is a mobile application that helps you build mindfulness for your everyday life. They are providing support specific to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, too.
Edited by Suryakumar Appu