If you don't already have a meditation practice, there is no better time than now to start one. If you do have one, this article will help you to deepen your understanding of how important it is. Below are five reasons meditation is one of the best things you can do for yourself (and others) during the COVID-19 outbreak. And since most of us will be indoors these days, it's also a great thing to do while social distancing.
1 - Meditation boosts your immune system
Study after study has shown that people who meditate regularly have reduced inflammation, higher white blood cell counts, lower blood pressure and healthier gene expression (their genes literally changed as they practiced meditation). If you feel you are more susceptible to this virus due to genetics, high blood pressure, or inflammation, grab the nearest pillow and start meditating.
If you've never meditated before, the Calm app has a wonderful step by step introduction program. You can also find thousands of free meditations on the Insight Timer app and YouTube. You can also explore my selection of free 5 minute meditations here.
2 - Meditation reduces anxiety
Another thing that has been extensively studied is how effective meditation is on anxiety reduction. As we face a myriad of uncertainties both individually and globally, a lot of us are feeling anxious. Anxiety is one of the things that causes stress, and stress weakens our immune systems.
In order to stay healthy, both mentally and physically, it's important to take time to sit down, breathe, and re-center. Even just a few minutes of deep, rhythmic breathing can have a powerful effect on your nervous system.
3 - Meditation increases compassion
As we look around and see people doing things we wouldn't (such as panic buying or ignoring safety regulations), it's easy to get angry and frustrated. However, when we become angry at the things we can't control, it causes stress on our minds and bodies.
In order to reduce stress, we want to try and see the actions of others with compassion. This is not because we condone their behavior, but because it helps us to stay healthier. And when we're healthier, we can help those who need us.
Because we cannot control other people, all we can do is try and change the lens through which we see them. We might see someone panic buying and feel they are selfish and irresponsible. However, when we see them with compassion, we can see they are acting out of fear and feel just as vulnerable and lost as we do. If frustration and stress is taking over your system, meditate on compassion. Try a loving-kindness meditation, or just try sending love to all who need it (and again, not because you agree with everyone's actions, but because you deserve to let go of your stress).
4 - Meditation leads to new insights and awareness
When our entire day is spent focused on the chaos around us, it leaves little room to think or feel anything else. It can cause us to become distraught and forget that although things are rough, there is a lot still going right. This doesn't mean we ignore what's happening or go into denial. It just means we allow room in our minds and hearts for new thoughts - ones that give us hope and motivation. As with all things listed above, this will help to reduce stress and create room for healing.
In one study, patients who were regularly asked to watch funny movies healed faster than those who didn't. At times like this, finding things to be happy about isn't irrational. It's a source of survival. If you're struggling to see the good in what's happening, sit quietly and think of things you love or that make you happy. Perhaps your pet, the flowers growing, or just your morning cup of coffee. If it makes you happy, hold it in your mind and think of all the reasons it makes you smile. Or just sit quietly, focusing on your breath, and see if it doesn't feel as if some space clears within you.
5 - The body follows what the mind thinks
Your body is constantly responding to the thoughts you think. Every thought you think sends out an electrical impulse, which then sets off a series of events in your body. If you are thinking positive thoughts, your body chemistry responds in positive ways. It might initiate sensations of calm and activate its self-healing. If you are thinking negative and fearful thoughts, your body chemistry responds in negative ways. It will cause your body to feel anxious, over stimulated, and perhaps weaken its self-healing abilities.
In order to get your mind and body into a harmonious and positive state, meditate. Use the power of your mind to remind yourself your body is a powerful source of healing. You can even meditate on an empowering mantra, such as "Every cell of my body radiates with health and vitality." Meditating in silence is also wonderful, as being in a neutral state is better than a negative one.
If you feel like this is too big of a leap to make, and fear has already taken over your mind, I have created a Health and Vitality visualization. It will help you to visualize yourself in good health, to get out of fearful thinking, and to imbue yourself with the strength you need.
5 Free Guided Meditations to Help You During the Outbreak