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Health and Wellbeing

Discover mindfulness in the coronavirus lockdown

By Adrian 22 Apr 2020

We are all spending much less time with other people during the social restrictions that are being used to curb the spread of coronavirus. For those who are required to self-isolate, there may be a whole week or more without seeing another person. We may also find our usual busy to-do lists suddenly empty, with no work and no social commitments.

This is all going to bring us to a different rhythm of life, a chance to rest, and a time to try out new things. 

Maybe you've been telling yourself that you'll try mindfulness one day, but never got round to it? Or perhaps you've heard of it but never quite knew what it meant? Or are you willing to try anything that might help you feel less stressed amid the coronavirus chaos?

In this post, we'll find out a little about what mindfulness is, how it can help, and how you can get started with mindfulness. Some of the resources are also suitable for anyone who might already be familiar with mindfulness.


What is mindfulness?

"Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally."

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Venn diagram showing overlapping meditation and mindfulness

Mindfulness can be understood as a natural human capacity, an ability to pay attention in a particular way. When we're being mindful, we are fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.

Mindfulness and meditation are related, but they're not the same thing: it's possible to be mindful without meditating, and not all meditation is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is how we train in this moment-to-moment awareness, allowing us to build the skill of mindfulness so that we can then apply it to everyday life. In teaching the mind to be present, we are teaching ourselves to be live more mindfully — in the present, taking a breath, not beholden to reactive thoughts and feelings — which is particularly helpful when faced with challenging circumstances or difficult situations.

Why bother?

Although mindfulness has been around for thousands of years, it's only in the past few decades that scientists have begun to study its benefits - and they are finding that the practice of mindfulness can be a key element in stress reduction and overall happiness, as well as having therapeutic benefits in the treatment of depression and anxiety.

Mindfulness meditation doesn’t only change our mindset and perspective, it actually can change the shape of our brains. Neuroimaging studies found that 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation changes our brains, rewiring them towards more positive thoughts and emotions.

If you're interested in reading more about the possible benefits of mindfulness, check out these pages:

Meditation in an emergency

In this 20-minute podcast episode, philosopher Sam Harris explains how mindfulness can help us to understand ourselves better, and why that's so important right now: Meditation in an emergency.

Getting started with mindfulness

Meditation is the best way to train your brain to be mindful. A typical, simple mindfulness meditation will involve sitting, standing, or lying somewhere comfortable where you won't be disturbed, and allowing your attention to rest on some element of your present-moment experience - such as the sensations of rising and falling in your chest or abdomen as you breathe in and out. Each time you notice that your attention has wandered onto something else (re-living an argument, worrying about a deadline, whatever it happens to be), you simply guide it back to the sensations of the breath. And repeat.

For more about getting started with mindfulness:

You might also like to explore this ultimate LIST of free meditation resources.

There's an app for that...

It's really helpful to be guided through a meditation verbally, step by step. There are many meditation apps available on all platforms. These come highly recommended:

A mindful approach to COVID-19

Lots of resources are springing up around the internet to help adopt a mindful approach to the coronavirus pandemic. These are some of the best ones:

Free online live meditation sessions

Many mindfulness and meditation teachers are offering free online group meditation sessions during the COVID-19 crisis. We've collated a list of some of the best ones HERE.

Recommended books

There are thousands of books about mindfulness out there. The following are great starters.

Adrian profile picture

Adrian is a medical doctor, the University of London Student Health & Wellbeing Manager, and the Warden of Connaught Hall. He is passionate about advancing equality, diversity, and inclusion. Adrian's interests include fitness, nutrition, mindfulness and insight meditation, medical education, social psychology, and human factors / crisis resource management.
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