Mindfulness and meditation: Getting started doesn’t have to be daunting or time consuming
By Natalie Quiring-Oleson, MSW, LICSW • JFCS Counselor
If you’ve read any articles providing you with tips to survive the pandemic, it is likely that mindfulness and/or meditation has been mentioned. These are two simple, but powerful, tools that can help manage anxiety, stress, worry, and fear.
Mindfulness means to be completely present in this moment. That may seem like an odd thing to say, since aren’t we always present in this moment? You would be surprised at how often you are not! How often does your mind wander to the schedule for the day, your next work task, wondering about what your child is doing, or reliving the fight you and your partner got into last night? Any of these things can cause us to feel anxiety and stress, even though they are not current happening. Mindfulness reminds us that all we can control is this moment.
The easiest way to be mindful is to engage as many of your senses as you can. Take a second to notice what you can see, hear, smell, feel, and taste. You can do this for a few seconds, or a few minutes. Continuing to pause during your day to notice your surroundings can help keep you present, and decrease your stress.
Meditation takes this a little bit further. Meditation is often thought of as the practice of completely clearing your mind in silence. This is a form of meditation; but the goal is not to clear your mind. That isn’t really possible – our minds are always creating thoughts. The goal of meditation is to continue to notice what is happening, and bring yourself back to the present.
Meditation can take many forms. It can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths, noticing how your body is feeling. There are also guided meditations, where people are given an idea to focus on. This can be guided imagery, gratitude, positive mantras, progressive muscle relaxations, and many more.
There are many reasons why people are hesitant to give mindfulness and meditation a try. Maybe you think it’s too hard, or too boring. Maybe you don’t think you have time, or the thought of adding one more thing to your already busy life seems impossible. Here’s the good news: all of these things can be small, short, and simple. Taking one minute to breathe deeply can make a difference. You can also do activities mindfully, such as drinking a cup of coffee, washing dishes at the sink, or taking a walk. To add mindfulness to these things, simply try to be as present as possible. Instead of listening to music for a few minutes, take some time to truly notice your surroundings, without distraction.
For a quick intro to meditation, I’ve linked a five-minute meditation led by JFCS’ own Counselor Carole Cera! Below are some articles and apps that can help you on your mindfulness/meditation journey. Give it a try, and be well 🙂
6 Mindfulness Exercises You Can Try Today
Apps: Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, and YouTube all have guided meditations- many for free!
You can also seek professional counseling – JFCS’ highly skilled, licensed therapists, social workers, and case managers work with care and compassion to address the challenges people face throughout their lives. Our services are confidential. We accept most insurance including Medicare. Click here for more information