Beginning Meditation Steps for the Quarantined
Five minutes of meditation during social distancing can offset stress.
Posted March 21, 2020 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma
During the era of the COVID-19 pandemic along with all the changes such as social distancing, anxiety is on the rise for many people. With social distancing, this is a great time to turn inward and practice mindfulness meditation to offset fear and panic. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, meditation has many mental and physical health benefits such as stress relief, lower blood pressure, and boosts in immune system.
If you’ve never meditated, you can start in just a few easy steps for five minutes at a time. Plenty of myths abound that can keep you from taking the first step to meditate. The truth: You don’t need to assemble elaborate equipment, burn incense, twist yourself into a pretzel, sit lotus position cross-legged on the floor or on a beach or play “weird” music. All you need is five minutes and yourself, a comfortable chair or cushion and a place where you won’t be distracted. Sit upright with your spine straight in a chair or on the cushion, and you’re ready to roll.
I recommend you meditate for only five minutes to start, gradually increasing your sit time to 15 or 20 minutes once or twice a day. One of the simplest and easiest forms of meditation is to use your breath as a focal point. The actual practice is realizing your attention has strayed and bringing your mind back to your breath, linking your mind and body together in the present moment. When you do this on a regular basis, meditation practice keeps you more positive in the here and now as you move through social isolation and hum-drum work routines.
Basic Steps for Beginning Meditation
Once you’re in a comfortable, quiet place, begin to relax your body. You can close your eyes or leave them open or half-open.
Start to pay attention to your breathing. Notice the air moving in through your nose and out through your mouth. Don’t over-breathe. Allow your breath to move naturally as you observe it.
Breathe in and out as you connect with each inhalation and exhalation, noticing how it feels as you begin the inhalation, how it feels as you are between the inhalation and the exhalation and the sensations of your breath on the exhalation.
Follow your breath through to a full cycle from the beginning of an inhalation, where your lungs are full, back to where they’re empty.
Notice the rise and fall of your belly; the air moving in and out of your nostrils.
As thoughts and feelings arise in the form of judgments—wondering if you’re doing this right, thinking about what you have to do later or questioning if it’s worth your time to be doing this—simply observe the thoughts without added judgment and let them go.
Once you realize your thoughts have hijacked your attention, don’t struggle with them. Gently bring your attention back and focus on your breath.
Every time you notice your attention leaving your breath, bring your awareness back to concentrating on your breathing.
If your mind gets caught in a chain of thought (and it probably will because this is part of meditation, training your mind to be present), gently step out of the thought stream and come back to the sensations of your breath. Each time it wanders off, continue patiently bringing it back again.
If you’re aware of body discomfort, hunger pangs, sensations of hot or cold or an itch, just breathe and watch them without doing anything about them. There’s nowhere else to be, nothing else to do but notice your breath for five minutes.
After five minutes, gently open your eyes and bring your attention back into the room. Take in the colors, sounds and textures around you. Stretch and breathe normally, noticing how much more vivid and acute your mind is and how much more calm, cool and connected you feel to yourself and the present moment.
Are You Getting the Hang Of It?
There is no one-size-fits-all formula to get the hang of meditation because there’s very little you have to do other than watch your thoughts with curiosity as you focus on your breathing. If your mind is still after meditating, if you feel relaxed and rested and if you have a calmer approach to stress, chances are you’re meditating correctly.
In the long term, you know meditation is working when you’re less reactive to all the stressful changes we're all accommodating to. Chances are, you will worry less and become more grounded in the here and now and take things one step at a time instead of mentally stuck in future worries about what’s to come. You’re more adaptable and stress resilient, and your batteries feel recharged more of the time. Adding these five minutes to your daily regimen can not only help you survive during social distancing and quarantines but thrive in spite of them.