Mindfulness and COVID-19: Mind Over Matter In The Digital World
Taking time for self-care has never been more necessary than in the middle of a pandemic. Whilst constantly being told to get used to the new normal, as creatures of habit we have all struggled with the dramatically different reality we have lived for the last few months. This has led to people turning to alternative therapies, such as mindfulness practices, to deal with stresses they have not encountered before or deal with heightened emotions whilst our normal forms of therapy, both clinical and social, have not been readily available.
A popular app that has stood out in its response to COVID-19 is Headspace. Headspace is an app that serves as a daily mediation and mindfulness source for just a few minutes each day. The want for a structure that was taken away from people in lockdown drew many new users to the app. The app was installed by 1.5 million people in April alone and secured a $47.7 million of funding in June. Headspace rewarded their new audience and not only has offered their subscription version free for a year to those who are unemployed but have also extended this offer to NHS and US health worker professionals.
Another digital platform that has seen a similar increase in popularity is Youtuber YogaWithAdriene. She strives to make yoga accessible to everyone. Her channel gained 1.67 million subscribers and 143.4 million views from March to June – an all-time high for her channel. Many comments on her old videos feature people discussing how they started her popular 30-day challenges in lockdown and her monthly yoga calendar featured topical practices including nurture, mediate and courage to encourage positive thinking.
Dr Sanjay Suri discusses in an article how the pandemic has exampled our responses to the crisis. He explains how our creative and strategic motivation is pushed to the limits with the building of the nightingale hospitals to the innovation behind designing new ventilators. This energy needs to be matched with taking time for yourself and he goes on to discuss the importance of being in the present and how it is achieved with mindfulness, from simply engaging with your breath to light exercise.
In relation to this article, many healthcare professionals have come together to provide free mindfulness programs in response to COVID-19. In April, the College of Medicine offered free online health and well-being sessions with leading healthcare practitioners from gentle exercise to Thought Field Therapy (TFT) sessions to Qigong sessions. A BMJ article also highlights the importance for practitioners to protect their mental well-being in the hectic circumstances we find ourselves in. The article brings attention to the importance of autonomy, belonging, competence, self prioritisation and self-compassion.
The efforts of the digital world and healthcare sector may seem like they rarely can combine but this pandemic has brought two incredible industries together in a new way. Apps have honoured our key workers and medical platforms have prioritised looking after the employees and clients through alternative means, through both approach and platform. The focus on the present is certainly something we hope to see into post-lockdown life and beyond.