During this time when so much of our everyday life has been disrupted, it can be helpful (if not essential!) to explore how we can stay calm and find creative ways to connect with others.
These are trying times for all of us. You might feel disoriented, lonely or isolated. You may be spinning into worst-case-scenario thinking, filled with worried thoughts about work, family, health and finances. The truth is, while you can’t control the outside world, you can control your internal world and choose how you think about your current circumstances.
Mindfulness tools offer some insights into how we can begin to be at peace with our inner experience, find clarity, and become centered in the midst of uncertainty. This is crucial for remaining calm in a crisis and supports us in living a happy, connected and meaningful life.
Here are six ways mindfulness teaches us how to connect with our inner zen.
Radical Acceptance of What Is: Being stuck at home is challenging, but your mindfulness practice can help you stay in the present moment and accept this with a more open and curious mind. You may be tempted to push the tough stuff away, but resistance only increases suffering. When you accept what you cannot change, you can refocus your energy on day to day goals like staying healthy, learning new skills, and becoming stronger and more resilient.
Finding Equanimity: Equanimity is mental calmness and composure in the face of difficult situations. It helps you accept life’s ups and downs, and not get thrown by the highs and lows. In meditation, teachers often invite us to embody the idea of a mountain—strong and steady with a stable base and a broad view from the top. When anxious feelings arise, use this visualization to reset your view and center yourself.
Choosing Your Thoughts: Mindfulness practice shows you, that you are not your thoughts. In fact, your thoughts are often generated automatically and it is easy to get caught up in negative spirals, especially when you are anxious. Mindfulness tools give you the power to practice new ways of thinking that can create more ease and comfort in your life. When you notice a negative thought, try saying “cancel, cancel” to move it out of your mind and come back to the present moment.
Practice Gratitude: Research has shown that a gratitude practice is linked to increased physical and mental wellbeing. Counting your blessings and practicing gratitude can directly counterbalance negativity bias and help you be more appreciative overall. The trick here is to take some time each day to write down three to five things that you’re grateful for. As you write them down, picture them in your mind and feel the emotions associated with them. You can list big things such as your health and loved ones or smaller things like a smile from a stranger or the smell of your morning tea.
Choose Your Words: While it can be helpful to share your honest feelings, avoid engaging in speculative or sensationalist conversations while talking to others. Catastrophizing will only make you feel worse. Instead, try to refocus the conversation to more positive and solution-oriented topics.
Take A Deep Breath: Whenever you notice your mind creating worst case scenarios or having anxious thoughts, pause for a moment, place one hand on your belly, and take a deep inhalation. Inhale as deeply as you can—all the way into your belly (but don’t force it). Then, exhale as slowly as possible. Repeat this for a few breath cycles. Next, breathe in gently and regularly: count to three on the inhalation and six on the exhalation. Repeat this for three to five minutes.
Whether you are just starting your mindfulness practice or an experienced practitioner, now is a perfect time to check out the free meditations in Muse that are a part of the Stress Less Challenge (download the app) and the SOS Calm Collection, also free in the Meditation Studio app.
As we adapt to this new and slower way of life, it is a great time to reset and form new healthy habits that will help us become happier and more resilient in the future.