Here's a simple, no-nonsense and easy meditation technique that'll reduce your COVID-19 anxiety

If you've ever considered meditation, now's a great time to start. Because, if you're like most people right now, you have two things: stress and too much time on your hands.

Meditation has traditionally been tied to ancient spiritual traditions and new-age ideas which, depending on your disposition, can either be a turn-on or a turn-off. But these days it's a practice that's recommended by therapists and is scientifically proven to have incredible benefits.

Research shows it can rewire your brain to improve your focus, happiness, and productivity. It's also therapeutic for people with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and high blood pressure.


A daily meditation practice can be a big help during the coronavirus crisis because it decreases brain activity in the Default Mode Network and increases it in the right medial temporal lobe.

So what's that supposed to mean?

Instead of being stuck in the part of your brain that ruminates on how things can go wrong, it activates the part of your mind associated with attention and concentration. That means less time spent worrying about what the future may bring and more time living in the present, where you can be of help to your loved ones and yourself.

via Peter Miller / Flickr

A study published in the journal Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience showed that "meditation was found to be associated with relatively lower activity in regions of the DMN in meditators compared to controls during meditation compared to another active cognitive task, as indicated by a significant Group x Task interaction."

Mediation also slows down your brain waves. This gives you the superpower of being able to thoughtfully respond to outside stimuli instead of immediately reacting. That's going to come in handy when cabin fever starts to take hold and your family gets on your nerves.

With a daily meditation routine, you'll notice you gain the power to thoughtfully respond to situations and stimuli instead of simply reacting.

"[Mindfulness mediation is] one of the early steps of learning how to follow our thoughts," Chloe Carmichael, a clinical psychologist based in New York City, told The Huffington Post. "Once you have mindful awareness of what your thoughts are, you're able to observe them without reacting to them."

via Pixabay

Now, how do I do it?

There are many different ways to meditate. Personally, I learned a very simple mindfulness meditation through Dr. Carl Totton of the Taoist Institute in Los Angeles.

It's a very simple technique that helps carve new neural pathways and improve your focus and concentration. One reason that it's so easy to learn is that it actually rewards you for failure.

Most people who've tried meditation quit after a few minutes because they find it impossible to clear their minds. What they don't know is that the fact that it's pretty much impossible to be thought-free is the point of the exercise.

ABC News anchor Dan Harris, does a great job of describing the simple practice his book, "10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works — A True Story."

— Sit comfortably in a quiet place. You don't have to be cross-legged, but your spine must be straight.

— Close your eyes and focus on your breath going in and out of your nostrils.

— Your attention will wander from your breath. Each time that happens, forgive yourself and return your attention back to the air going through your nostrils. The entire game is to catch your mind wandering and then return your focus to your breath.

The first time you try it, you'll notice that it is extremely hard to maintain focus on your breath. You'll notice that your mind loves to wander. That's ok, just bring it back to your breath going in and out of your nostrils.

Every time you "fail" by allowing your mind to wander off, it's a win. The process of catching your mind and returning it back to your breath strengthens your mind and increases your ability to control your thoughts.

Set a timer on your smartphone for five minutes the first time. Then increase the time by a minute or two each day. I've found that I get great results after about eight minutes or so a day.

via Marco Conti / Flickr

The goal here is not to torture yourself, but to develop a daily habit. I like to meditate on the bathroom floor after a shower in the morning.

On your first attempt, you will immediately notice that it's extremely hard to maintain focus on your breath. You will also notice how much your mind loves to wander.

There's a popular misconception about meditation that you must completely clear your mind. However, according to Harris, this is "basically impossible unless you are enlightened, or you have died."

The incredible part of this practice is that after just a few days you'll begin to have a completely different relationship to your thoughts.

You will catch yourself ruminating about something you shouldn't, like 'How long will I be stuck in this house?' but then gently return your thoughts to the task at hand or something more meaningful — just like you return your thoughts to your breath while meditating.

Before meditation, I found it very difficult to stop ruminating on negative events that happened in the past or fears about the future. After meditation, I learned to push those thoughts aside. It's an amazing feeling when you realize that you can have greater control over your thoughts and, therefore your life.

That's something we could all use more of in these trying times.

Here are some more resources to help you during the pandemic:

Dan Harris further explaining his meditation technique.

Harvard has some dietary tips to help reduce your anxiety.

Here are "8 Ways to Make Meditation a Daily Habit" from the Chopra Center.

Pedram Shojai teaches how to resolve anxiety through qi gong.

via Good Morning America

Anyone who's an educator knows that teaching is about a lot more than a paycheck. "Teaching is not a job, but a way of life, a lens by which I see the world, and I can't imagine a life that did not include the ups and downs of changing and being changed by other people," Amber Chandler writes in Education Week.

So it's no surprise that Kelly Klein, 54, who's taught at Falcon Heights Elementary in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, for the past 32 years still teaches her kindergarten class even as she is being treated for stage-3 ovarian cancer.

Her class is learning remotely due to the COIVD-19 pandemic, so she is able to continue doing what she loves from her computer at M Health Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming, Minnesota, even while undergoing chemotherapy.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

Keep Reading Show less
True
Gates Foundation

Once upon a time, a scientist named Dr. Andrew Wakefield published in the medical journal The Lancet that he had discovered a link between autism and vaccines.

After years of controversy and making parents mistrust vaccines, along with collecting $674,000 from lawyers who would benefit from suing vaccine makers, it was discovered he had made the whole thing up. The Lancet publicly apologized and reported that further investigation led to the discovery that he had fabricated everything.

Keep Reading Show less

In the autumn of 1939, Chiune Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to open the first Japanese consulate there. His job was to keep tabs on and gather information about Japan's ally, Germany. Meanwhile, in neighboring Poland, Nazi tanks had already begun to roll in, causing Jewish refugees to flee into the small country.

When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in June of 1940, scores of Jews flooded the Japanese consulate, seeking transit visas to be able to escape to a safety through Japan. Overwhelmed by the requests, Sugihara reached out to the foreign ministry in Tokyo for guidance and was told that no one without proper paperwork should be issued a visa—a limitation that would have ruled out nearly all of the refugees seeking his help.

Sugihara faced a life-changing choice. He could obey the government and leave the Jews in Lithuania to their fate, or he could disobey orders and face disgrace and the loss of his job, if not more severe punishments from his superiors.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sugihara was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't, I would be disobeying God." Sugihara decided it was worth it to risk his livelihood and good standing with the Japanese government to give the Jews at his doorstep a fighting chance, so he started issuing Japanese transit visas to any refugee who needed one, regardless of their eligibility.

Keep Reading Show less