I’ll be blogging my way through the Coronavirus period, with a focus on the psychological impacts and how to keep yourself and the people you care about safe and mentally healthy.
Look after yourself peeps..
Dr Gareth Furber
This morning I walked to Baker’s Delight to get a couple of loaves of bread. I considered buying all of them but panic buying is bad m’kay.
I was careful to abide by as many hygiene and social distancing rules that I could along the way. Washed hands before and after walking. Kept a distance from everyone. Communicated my order form a safe distance.
Sprayed everyone I saw with Glen20.
On the way to the bakery I listened to a brief podcast by Sam Harris. Sam makes the meditation app that I use most days called ‘Waking Up’ [you can get a free month of the app using this link – https://share.wakingup.com/91844d].
On the podcast he tried to explain why training in meditation made sense during this very difficult period.
Now of course, he has a vested interest in people training in meditation, because he makes a meditation training app. However he is very generous in offering free memberships to those who genuinely can’t afford the subscription fee. So I don’t think financial gain is his primary motive. Also, there are a number of meditation apps offering good deals at the moment, so you aren’t in any way limited in choice.
He made a few points that stuck with me:
- Meditation training improves how mindful (aware) you are of your actions, your body, your feelings, and your thoughts.
- A situation like we find ourselves in at the moment requires all of these:
- We have to be mindful of our actions so we aren’t putting others at risk (e.g. hygiene, social distancing).
- We have to be mindful of our bodies because some of the hygiene requirements involve regular conscious physical actions (e.g. hand washing, not touching face).
- During this crisis we’ll be exposed to many items of news that are potentially distressing, yet we’ll also be required to try and refocus our attention on the things we need to do to stay safe and keep those we love safe. Meditation as a form of mental training helps you develop some of these emotional regulation skills.
- Stressful situations require us to make good decisions. If our thinking and thoughts are dominated by anxiety, we won’t be able to see good decisions through the cloud of potentially crappy ones. Meditation as a form of mental training can help you develop an understanding of how your mind works, its thought processes and the thinking traps you fall into regularly.
For many of us, the best thing we can do to contain the spread of the virus is to socially isolate ourselves. This means spending a lot of lone time with our own brains. The better the relationship you have with your own brain, the easier this self-isolation will be. The more you are battling with your own thoughts and feelings, the more the self-isolation will feel like another battleground, separate from the one we are all fighting with that pesky COVID-19.
So if you’ve been wondering whether or not to dabble in meditation, and you find yourself now with more time on your hands because of self-isolation, maybe this is a good time to launch a practice.
As a reference point, I do 20 minutes a day. It isn’t a miracle cure for everything that mentally ails you, but even just the dedication of 20 minutes to stillness and silence is quite soothing. Over the time I’ve been meditating (~12 months), I’ve noticed an improvement in my ability to notice thoughts and feelings but not get wrapped up in them. Don’t get me wrong – I still get angry and distracted and upset and irrational, but I’m slowly developing an understanding that these reactions can be shortened or shrunk.
As far as where to start in terms of apps, my default recommendation is usually Smiling Mind – an Australian not-for-profit mindfulness meditation app.
And if you find yourself thinking ‘fork you Gareth’, I’m not interested in meditation. I’d rather hoard 500 bog rolls, change into camo gear and hide behind my couch with a makeshift pair of nunchucks, then I totally understand 🙂