Mindfulness during a pandemic: Can it help?

Mindfulness during a pandemic: Can it help?

Written by Robby Berman on March 29, 2021 — Fact checked by Hannah Flynn, MS
Share on PinterestCan mindfulness help people cope with the pandemic? Westend61/Getty Images

  • Research has shown that mindfulness practice can help people manage anxiety and stress.
  • A recent study explores online mindfulness classes as a means of helping people manage the emotional toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Most participants said that they found the researchers’ online mindfulness session helpful.
  • Interest in mindfulness increased between May and August 2020.

Mindfulness is a mental practice in which a person directs their attention to the present moment, having a nonjudgmental awareness of their immediate surroundings, thoughts, and feelings.

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A study by researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC, investigates the therapeutic value of online mindfulness sessions for people who have found that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their emotional health.

After an experimental online mindfulness session, 89% of participants reported that the experience had been helpful.

The principal investigator for the research is Dr. Rebecca Erwin Wells, M.P.H., of Wake Forest School of Medicine, who says:

“We are all born with the capacity for mindfulness. It can help reduce stress and anxiety, and mindfulness meditation practice can help enhance this ability.”

The inspiration for the study comes from a program of free daily mindfulness sessions called “Mindfulness for Milan,” which Italian physician Dr. Licia Grazzi presented during the lockdown period. Dr. Grazzi is one of the recent study’s co-authors.

The results appear in the journal Global Advances in Health and Medicine.

Trying online mindfulness

From March 23 to August 4, 2020, the researchers recruited healthcare professionals, individuals with migraine, and the general public to participate in their study.

Of the 233 participants, 203 came from 116 different zip codes in the United States. In addition, there were 20 participants from other countries and 10 people who participated from unknown locations.

The researchers asked each of the participants to complete a pre-session survey, take part in a 15-minute online video mindfulness session, and then respond to a post-session survey.

Of those taking part, 63% had never practiced mindfulness before.

The session began with a white coat-wearing female instructor providing an overview of mindfulness. A guided practice followed that instructed individuals to bring their attention to the present moment, their breathing, and simply “being.”

The practice encouraged the gentle release of thoughts, feelings, and sensations throughout the session. A bell sound signaled the start and end of the session.

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