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Train yourself to find inner peace

More people concerned about the coronavirus pandemic, are turning to meditation to help reduce stress. Jenny Stallard outlines a beginner's guide to the practice

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Stress buster: meditation can help during this stressful period says Dr Meghan Jones Bell

Stress buster: meditation can help during this stressful period says Dr Meghan Jones Bell

Press Association Images

Dr Meghan Jones Bell

Dr Meghan Jones Bell

Press Association Images

Stress buster: meditation can help during this stressful period says Dr Meghan Jones Bell

For many people, even before coronavirus began, meditation was a great way to try and find some balance. And now, during the pandemic, even more of us are turning to it as a coping mechanism, to help reduce stress and anxiety.

If you're keen to try, it's easy to get started, say experts.

Dr Megan Jones Bell, chief science officer at mindfulness and meditation app Headspace (headspace.com) says: "Overall, Headspace downloads have doubled, with certain courses seeing an increase in users of over 1000%.

"With regards to specific sessions, we have recently seen ten times the number of users starting our stressed calming meditation.

"Specifically in the UK, this has been a six-times increase. Our reframing anxiety home workout has also had a ten-times increase in the amount of UK users trying it out."

Meditation - why now?

"This is an unprecedented time for all of us. As the world collectively takes steps to safeguard physical health and wellbeing, it's also important to take care of our minds," says Jones Bell.

"During this challenging time, it's normal to feel anxious and overwhelmed. While we work from home, we can get easily distracted from tasks and feel less motivation to be productive.

"By being apart from family, friends and loved ones, our relationships with others may also feel strained. This stress is also exacerbated by the anxiety we may feel about what the future holds."

"Mindfulness is proven to help people better manage difficult emotions by recognising these feelings and accepting that they are transient, helping you to let them go.

"Dedicating just a small fraction of every day to self-care can have a huge impact on our wellbeing, relationships, sleep, focus and productivity," adds Jones Bell.

Dominique Antiglio is trained in a type of dynamic meditation called Sophrology (be-sophro.com). She explains: "This is a modern type of meditation, a practice for body and mind where we combine relaxation, breathing and body awareness work."

Antiglio has found a lot of beginners are coming to join her Instagram Live guided meditations during the pandemic. She encourages people to start the day with a practice - instead of going straight for your phone, try meditating instead, she adds.

She's also a fan of adding in stretching, so you're aware of your body, and any negative emotions which you can begin to work through.

Who can do it?

"Mindfulness and meditation can be practised by anyone at any age, for any amount of time they want to spend on it, even if it's for as little as three minutes a day," says Jones Bell.

"You can also introduce meditation to children, which helps allow them to be present in the moment and free from any external thoughts or pressures."

Where and when?

"While meditation can be done any time of day, the morning can be a good time, as it helps encourage the habit of mindfulness, releases feelings of fogginess and gives the mind clarity, and sets the day up on a positive note," says Jones Bell.

If you have outside space, that can be a lovely place to meditate.

"You could start with just five minutes," says Antiglio. "You can meditate standing, lying down... if you breathe properly for five minutes a day, three to four times a week, it'll start to add up to a transformation in your consciousness."

Finding quiet time can be tricky at the moment for some people, Antiglio acknowledges, particularly parents at home with children.

But she suggests: "Even if the kids are around, you can ask them to play for a moment and take five minutes. They'll learn from that, seeing you breathing and closing your eyes - you're setting a great example."

Get started today with this breathing exercise from Headspace

1. After finding a quiet spot, close your eyes, and focus your attention to your breath.

2. Don't alter or rush it, allow it to continue at its own rhythm and simply observe the rising and falling sensation that it creates in your body.

3. Focus on the quality of each breath, asking without judgement: Is it long or short? Deep or shallow? Fast or slow?

4. Begin silently counting each breath: 1 as you inhale, 2 as you exhale, 3 on the next inhalation and so on, up to 10. Then start again from the beginning at stage 1.

5. If your mind wanders, don't worry, that's completely normal. Notice new thoughts, but then let them go, bringing your attention back to your breath.

6. Once you have completed 10 minutes, congratulate yourself, recognising how the process made you feel.

Belfast Telegraph