COVID-19: the start of mindful living

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

In these times of uncertainty, information contradiction, threatening stories, and forced social distancing...maybe we should experiment with a mindful living? Is it time to reflect on the lifestyle choices we make and reevaluate our daily routines?...

‘Corona-virus, the new climate change publicist’ (viral post on social media)

Currently, we must self-isolate to protect each other and reconsider the way we go about our everyday lives. Shopping routines are changing, and remote working is the only way a business can survive. If we're dealing with significant changes so readily, then why can't we alter our mindset to adopt a healthy lifestyle?

The CSO of Headspace shares his approach about mindful living during the COVID-19 period:“Research shows that mindfulness meditation can reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression [...]. Our brains have developed to focus on threat. Short-term stress and anxiety can be part of a healthy range of emotional experience and at times can help us stay safe. However, when we experience chronic stress, stress from which we experience no break, it can tax our immune system and cause more severe problems like anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance. Meditation helps deactivate the emotional center of the brain which is responsible for emotional reactivity that keeps us hooked to news cycles and fuels chronic stress. When we help our brains stay grounded we are better able to engage the rational part of our brains. This can help us understand information and make decisions from a place of fact versus panic [...]. Meditation works by helping people regulate emotions, changing the brain to be more resilient to stress, and improving stress bio markers."

Beyond the virus, Society can be a stress factor in itself…

The International Women's Day on March 8th was an occasion to reflect on the role and place of women in our societies, celebrate achievements and embrace change.

Yet while voices are heard in some places, others are met with unfair treatment and violence when they speak out. This UN report highlights key facts and provides a 25-year retrospective look at how our society has changed.

However, 'under-achieving', 'struggling to excel in everything' or 'having it all' are the most commonly reported feelings among women. We see perfectionism as positive, but according to specialist reports "researchers are finding that it is nothing short of dangerous, leading to a long list of health problems" (BBC, 2018).

We mustn't forget that society's constant pressure to overachieve and over-perform is also affecting men and causing psychological distress. Researches in behavioural sciences in 2010 reveal weakening self-esteem and self-confidence in professional, personal and intimate spheres for men (Forbes, 2008).

Multiforms of pressure from society increase by the city we live in and its "personality". Insights from urban psychology this year, show that some "urban personalities" prompt more stress, anxiety or, on the contrary, sense of connection, than others.

Loneliness is one of the most harmful factors on humans' wellbeing. It impacts our "social cognition" (our ability to handle emotions and interpret interactions with others). In turn, this triggers feelings of threat and excessive defence mechanisms, with neurotic, hormonal and metabolic associated damaged as evidenced in this report from the Mental Health Foundation.

If living in cities can prompt a feeling of loneliness, then perhaps human beings are not wired to live in cities (Urban The air we breathe, how attached we are with the place we live in, and how secure we feel, can have a real emotional and physical impact on ourselves.

Once these feelings begin to arise, they can compromise our sense of self-worth, purpose and lead us to question the meaning of life.

Could our urban environments also be the solution?

Building more green spaces and designing pro-social placemaking have shown to be therapeutic for city dwellers → Watch this video about successful cases of urban design, health and wellbeing.

The Australian city of New Castle is an excellent example of improving the quality of life in cities. Their urban renewal project encourages writers, live artists, athletes, engineers, musicians and comedians to take part in the broader renovation strategy.

By offering local retail, hospitality, education and start-up innovations, the quality of life can be improved, and others benefit from a stronger sense of community.

Sweden is another pioneer country in terms of people-centred placemaking and public policies in general. Their carbon-neutral buildings, cycle lanes and footways constructions improve the environment.

The country is also offering free wellbeing treatments such as fitness facilities, subsidised healthy meals in offices, free medical checkups and flexible or reduced working hours (see a summary in this HR magazine).

Aside from national and local initiatives, people should work to take control of their own lives. By slowing down and re-evaluating our routines, we can enjoy a happier, healthier life.

Coach's' insights

On that note, PT and Health Coach - Lauren asks "Do you feel stuck in a rut? Are you working in an environment where you don't feel like you achieve anything?"

"You can't change the way your organisation works overnight, but why not try celebrating some little personal successes to help you achieve and develop on a personal level?

Every morning - write yourself one bullet point and focus on achieving that one thing. Just ONE. Something will pop up, life will get in the way, but if you're living in the city that's just sometimes the way it is. If you can achieve one thing daily, you are heading in the right direction to help build your self-confidence and bury that self-doubt."

Here are a few things you could do right now, or things you can bullet point to achieve for your day! They are all doable!

  • Unsubscribe from the thousands of emails you get - to help you declutter your digital space

  • 30 Air squats! No need to change your clothes, your exercise habit starts here! GO!

  • Hover a room in the house

  • Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier (You will get more done in the day)

  • Phone that person you have been meaning to catch up with - do it now! No more excuses.

  • Put that meeting in the diary - the one you have been putting off for ages - asking the boss for a pay rise, for example.

Do you find yourself justifying things? Buying lunch - because it's a treat, a glass of wine after a long day at work?

Ask yourself, is it because you're not happy with your current day to day situation?

It's time to ask yourself what you want. If you don't know, then take baby steps to figure out what that is?

Rather than wasting time and money on trivial things, why not ask yourself what gives you energy and makes you happy, from the inside out? And what zaps your energy daily?

For me - I hated my daily commute; it was draining my energy and making me miserable.

I had three options. Continue with it, change it, or adapt it?

I went for extreme measures. I changed it. I quit my full-time job (which I loved) and tried to find something closer to home. In doing so, I realised I was out of my comfort zone. I sacrificed a full-time paycheque and ventured into something new and exciting.

It was amazing how many opportunities I made myself just from having so much more energy and doing less of the one thing that drained me so much. I didn't know how to pay the mortgage but month by month I got by. When you have to, and when you want to, you always find a way.

You don't necessarily need to go quite as extreme as I did. But, my overarching point is, if there is something you keep doing and justifying to yourself, ask yourself why and get to the root cause of the problem. Don't just keep burying it. Face it head-on, change it or adapt it. It may feel a little uncomfortable at first, but great things only come when you step outside of your comfort zone. Imagine what you can achieve if you step outside what's making you comfortable.

In a nutshell...Try new things!

Changes are scary, it is said. Our habits are perhaps the most difficult things to change in ourselves. Or it seems an impossible task at that instance because we're habituated to performing actions a certain way.

Perhaps that's the way it should feel for us to strive, give our best and reach the next level. It is only through mindful living that we will be able to sense and realise the need to change or reform habits.

One should be happy if such a realisation dawns on them because change is inevitable, it's more organic, liberating and most importantly, sustainable. Habits define character, character identifies an individual, and the individual represents our society. "Be the change you want to see". Start by living mindfully.

Claire, Lauren & Sathya

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