We are all currently living through an unprecedented period of uncertainty and high anxiety. The ways in which we choose to cope and maintain our mental health are of course unique to each of us. However, there are a number of things that we can all certainly benefit from.
Yoga and meditation are my go-to choices when I need to relax, unwind, and move through a difficult experience. Even a short yoga flow followed by a moment of meditation can help to set the reset button in the mind.
Embracing a daily yoga and meditation practice as we endure the coronavirus pandemic, can help to maintain your mental health. This will also serve as a fun way to challenge your body physically.
Today I am going to explore the mental health benefits of yoga and meditation. In doing so I hope to encourage you to try both of these activities!
If you find it difficult to get started, then do keep trying — even if just for a few minutes every day. There are so many online classes that you can follow along to if you need inspiration. You can check out Grokker to stream several of my yoga classes and join in at home!
Exercise For Mental Health
Exercise has long been recognised as a tool for supporting mental health — and this can be attributed to multiple reasons.
As we engage in physical activity, endorphins are released in the brain. These feel-good chemicals help to enhance our sense of happiness and to keep our mood up.
When we exercise regularly, we are more likely to feel physically healthy. This in turn can influence our mental health.
Additionally, depending on the type of exercise that you are doing, you also have the possibility of meeting new people. Expanding your social network and building community through physical activity is a great way to further support your emotional wellbeing. Exercise that doubles up as a social opportunity includes team sports, running clubs, and going to the gym with friends.
Yoga And Emotional Wellbeing
As well as being a physical activity that can encourage the flow of endorphins, yoga is also an amazing way to relax and find peace within yourself.
Your idea of yoga might be a slow and simple stretching routine. However, several types of yoga require you to get your heart pumping and seriously challenge your muscles.
When you are practicing yoga to support your emotional wellbeing, then a slow and gentle flow will be the best place to start. Move your body through some restorative poses and take your time as you breathe through each one. You can then work up to the more challenging poses. Be sure to celebrate how your body is able to progress and develop as you go.
The act of practicing yoga forces you to slow down and focus solely on what you are doing. You must synchronise your breath with your movements, and increase your awareness of your entire body. Not only does this serve as a pleasant distraction from whatever else is going on in your day, but it also prompts you to move from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system.
When the sympathetic nervous system is activated your body and brain are responding to the stress and anxiety that may be understandably heightened at the moment. Stress hormones are being released around the body to prepare for any perceived dangers. However, when the parasympathetic nervous system in activated — largely due to how you take control of your breathing — then you become calmer and much more relaxed.
Meditation And Mental Health
A daily meditation practice can help you to press the pause button on all that is going on around you. This can give you greater clarity to take a step back and put things into perspective.
It may be more difficult than usual to find a quiet space to meditate if you are at home with your family all day. But it can be so beneficial to prioritise this time. Taking just ten minutes to yourself in an empty room to meditate can truly help to better understand your own thoughts and feelings.
When you take this time to yourself to meditate, sit in a comfortable position and concentrate solely on your breathing. Take deep breaths in and visualise the air moving down through your body and into your lungs. Hold it there for a moment or two, and then slowly exhale this air back into the world around you.
You may find it helpful to imagine that you are breathing in positivity and allowing it to circulate around your body. You can then breathe out negativity, stress, and anxiety.
If you feel like you need more support than usual with your mental health, then you are definitely not alone at this time. We are all facing an unknown situation with no clear indication of how long life may be different. This can of course impact your stress levels in the present moment, as well as exacerbate your concerns for the future.
In order to help you keep on top of your mental health, I would like to share with you my top ten tried and tested tips for keeping stress and anxiety away!
Click to sign up to my Get Inspired Newsletter and receive these tips immediately to your inbox!