Daily mindfulness: a response to the psychological effects of Coronavirus
Can mindfulness practice support the malaise generated by restrictive measures to combat coronavirus these days? Seeing is believing.
Advertising message There are numerous applications of mindfulness, from the clinic to wellness, and there are several existing protocols, but 10 minutes of practice a day is enough to reduce the levels of anxiety and stress (Xu et all, 2017).
The suspended time of these days obliges us to be close, both with our affections and with ourselves, and forces us to live in the home but, above all, forces us to live in time.
A time that we are not used to having and giving ourselves.
We seem to live in a bubble, a space interrupted by something that we didn’t expect and that we want to send away as soon as possible, something that has blocked us.
Then emerges the sense of constraint, fear, anxiety, uncertainty that, all together, drag us into the vortex. The instinct is to live the fear by engaging in a struggle, raising walls, stiffening us. And the body responds in its own way: the pressure rises, the stomach burns, the heart reverberates, the thoughts get busy.
We are prey to the natural propensity of the mind, inherited phylogenetically, to focus on the negative, because evolutionarily this has allowed us to preserve ourselves as a species, taking us up to the present day. The attention then focuses on what is wrong. And it is normal. The mind works like this. Negative thoughts feed themselves and attract others, activating the default mode network, a neural network that supports mental wandering and which, at the same time, drains us of energy, tires us.
Breaking the vicious circle is therefore fundamental, as well as possible.
Body and mind communicate constantly and influence each other.
And it is precisely through the body that it is possible to reach thoughts.
We can do this by bringing some mindfulness into our days.
Like? Returning to “open” our attention, projecting it on daily actions such as cooking a good dish, watching a movie, doing yoga, sewing, reading or whatever else we like. And maybe starting to take small breaks, stopping, closing our eyes and observing the breath.
Here is an exercise to do during the day.
Advertising message Choose a quiet place where you can remain undisturbed, both from your mobile phone and family members for a few minutes. You can sit or choose to stand. In both cases, make sure that your back is naturally straight and at the same time soft.
Close your eyes to bring your attention inside or, if you prefer, keep them ajar by pausing your gaze on one point of the floor.
Bring attention to the breath. Take three long breaths, then return to normal breathing, closing your mouth and breathing through your nose.
Watch the breath. Notice how it is. It could be long, short, fast, labored, calm. Stay with your breath as it is, without changing it. Each breath is done by an inhalation and an exhalation. Each inhalation follows spontaneously an exhalation. There is no effort in this.
Bring a hand on your abdomen and breathe feeling as the abdomen lifts and retracts.
It will happen that thoughts or bodily sensations will intervene to distract you. It is in the nature of the mind.
Observe what it is: they may be thoughts concerning things to do, worries, or something that happened in the previous days, or you may notice sensations in the body: annoyance, itching, heat, relaxation. Every time it happens, go back to your breath letting the distraction slip away. In a sweet way, without the intention of chasing away something that has come to disturb you. As the river flows into its bed, thoughts and sensations flow, crossing you.
Note what effect they have on the level of body sensations and thoughts.
You can write them if you want, creating a small daily practice diary.
Start by practicing for three minutes a day which you can repeat at different times of the day. You can set a timer that keeps time for you.
Gradually, you can try increasing your breath break by one minute a week.
Done consistently, this practice will allow you to lower the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and to gradually reduce fear by seeing it for what it is: an important and powerful universal emotion that unites living beings, protecting us and at the same time indicating us to be cautious, to take the right measures, to comply with the indications.
By bringing attention away from the noise of thoughts, through the small actions of everyday life made by the body, we can make space in ourselves, giving shape to that inner place, always present, a source of support and stability.