3 Reasons to Meditate in the Battle Against Coronavirus
Research shows that meditation may improve immune function and reduce stress.
Posted March 13, 2020 | Reviewed by Devon Frye
Coronavirus is now officially a pandemic, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) defines as “the worldwide spread of a new disease.” Wherever you live, you’ll be well aware not only of the worldwide impact of this disease but also the threat within your own country, community and family. Many of us are particularly worried about the potential impact of this disease on our elderly and physically vulnerable relatives. And, on top of the disease itself, the economic impact—from the worldwide level right down to individuals being unable to work and ineligible for sick pay—is huge. Kids off school in some areas, shortages in shops, and cancellation of holidays and events are all adding to the anxiety and distress.
We should all be following the WHO guidelines for dealing with the coronavirus,1 as well as the information issued by our own governments, which include:
- Washing hands frequently
- Maintaining social distance
- Avoiding touching face, eyes, nose, and mouth
- Practising good respiratory hygiene
- Following your country’s guidelines on self-isolation/seeking medical advice if you have potentially come into contact with the virus or have symptoms
It’s easy to get caught up in all the panic which is around—particularly when you’re reminded of its impact every time you go to the supermarket and see empty toilet roll shelves—all of which makes it particularly important to remember good mental self-care. Taking some time out to meditate can help in so many ways.
Here are three reasons to do so:
1. Meditation may boost the immune system.
Coronavirus is a highly infectious disease and no one is saying that meditation will protect you against it. However, several studies2,3 have shown that meditation may be able to strengthen the immune system by positively impacting genes involved with the infectious cycle.
Using regular self-hypnosis as a relaxation technique has had positive effects on Lymphocytes—a type of white blood cell which helps produce antibodies and destroy cells which could cause damage.4 Meditation’s capacity to reduce stress levels can have a knock-on effect in improving the immune system, given the fact that stress is associated with a diminished immune response.5
2. Meditation can help relieve anxiety.
Mindfulness meditation has a proven track record in helping manage and alleviate anxiety.6 Not only does this help reduce stress levels—and thus potentially improve the immune system—but it also helps people manage the increased level of anxiety which comes from being in the middle of a pandemic like coronavirus.
Mindfulness meditation involves staying in the present moment, without dwelling on the past or the future, and accepting your feelings and emotions as perfectly valid. This is in vast contrast to getting caught up in worries about what may or may not happen during this pandemic.
3. Meditation can help us to improve emotional health.
At a time when people may be self-isolating, worrying about finances, socially distancing from loved ones, and feeling concerned about contracting coronavirus, meditation can help improve emotional health and can help manage depression which is exacerbated by stress.7
If meditation is new to you, here are a few tips to get started:
- Use a good app. Until you’ve become used to meditating, it can be a bit tricky at the start. There are loads of great apps out there with guided meditations which can help you get used to meditating.
- Be patient with yourself. Training the brain is like training any other muscle. Be patient and understanding with yourself while you’re learning.
- Keep it short to start off with. Meditation requires you to use your brain in a very different way. At first, it will take effort. Do regular, short bursts and gradually build up the amount of time you spend during any one meditation session.
- Set a regular time of day. Meditation is a habit, and you’re much more likely to implement it if you set a specific time of day and incorporate it into your routine.
- Make it enjoyable! Meditation is fun. Get nice and comfy, maybe light a candle or some relaxing music, and enjoy.
- Do it regularly. To experience the benefits of meditation, you need to do it regularly. Short bursts regularly are far better than attempting a half-hour meditation now and again.
If you already regularly meditate, it’s important to keep up the practice, no matter how many demands you may be facing. If you’re new to meditation, there couldn’t be a better time to start!
2. Espel, E. S., Puterman, E., Lin, J. et. Al (2016) Meditation and vacation effects have an impact on disease-associated molecular phenotypes, Translational Psychiatry, 6, pagee880(2016)
3. Black, D.M. & Slavich, G.M. (2016) Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials, Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci., Jun;1373(1):13-24. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12998. Epub 2016 Jan 21
4. Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., McGuire, L., Robles, T., & Glaser, R. (2002). Psychoneuroimmunology: Psychological influences on immune function and health. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70, 537-547
5. Morey, J. N., Boggero, I. A., Scott, A. B. & Segestrom, S. C. (2015) Current directions in stress and immune response, Curr Opin Psychol., 1; 5: 13–17
6. Miller, J. J., Fletcher, K. & Kabat-Zinn, J. (1995) Three-year follow-up and clinical implications of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention in the treatment of anxiety disorders, General Hospital Psychiatry, 17, 3, 192-200
7.Kasala, E. R., Bodduluru, L. N., Maneti, Y., Thipparaboina, R. (2014) Effect of meditation on meurophysiological changes in stress mediated depression, Feb;20(1):74-80. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2013.10.001. Epub 2013 Oct 18.