Staying positive right now isn’t just difficult—sometimes it feels downright impossible. At the beginning of the summer, as the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to be winding down, we had a brief glimpse of what it would be like to have our lives return to some semblance of normalcy. But now, as the Delta variant continues to spread and hospital beds are filling up, we find ourselves digging out our masks with dread (and maybe some moans of despair). The constant barrage of news about the pandemic is definitely taking a toll on our mental state.
But while we can’t (always) escape the news, we can control how we cope with it. A recent study led by cognitive neuroscientists and a clinical health psychologist found that practicing a mindfulness meditation for 10 minutes a day may the limit the impact of negative COVID-19 news coverage on your emotional state.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Calgary, the University of Arizona, and the University of New Hampshire, asked participants to practice a guided mindfulness meditation for a least 10 minutes a day over a 10-day period. Curious about which meditation program the participants used? Researchers asked them to select one of Headspace’s 10-day meditation programs on kindness, concentration, managing anxiety, or letting go of stress.
See also: The 12 Best Meditation Apps of 2021
As it turns out—these practices worked. Participants who completed the 10-day mindfulness meditation program were not negatively impacted by COVID-19 news, compared to the control group. Additionally, these participants also reported an overall happier mood at the end of the study. How do researchers know this? Well, they asked participants to complete four ecological momentary assessments daily. These assessments allowed researchers to see real-time emotional reactions to the exposure of COVID-19 news coverage and other stressful events.
In a piece for the Conversation, the study authors highlighted the need for an additional practice during this challenging (impossible?) time—self-compassion. Combining self-compassion with a mindfulness practice will enable you to better manage stressors like COVID-19 news, the researchers said. (We have a meditation for that!)
They also emphasized the need for social interaction—something that has been discouraged and even feared (in-person at least) throughout the pandemic. As humans, we are innately social creatures. The researchers recommended trying out a group meditation session online or finding a COVID-safe, in-person meditation meet-up.
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