Autumn Jones is a Program Analyst with Ripple Effect, in which she supports client-facing teams in account management, SOP development and process improvements, onboarding materials, and more. Previously, she worked as a Scientific Project Support Coordinator, in which she supported Ripple’s Strategic Staffing team in recruiting scientists to federal medical research programs, contract management, policy analysis, and more.
But that’s work. Autumn is a comparative psychologist by training, animal lover at heart, and avid practitioner of yoga in spirit. As we all endure the COVID-19 pandemic, Autumn was kind enough to contribute a guest blog about mindfulness, yoga, and how to look inward and find a healthy balance.
In these uncertain times, it’s so easy to feel unsettled by what we hear happening in the world around us. The news has nothing less than scary things to tell us, friends and family blow up our phones to see if we’re healthy and doing well, and we often feel overwhelmed by it all. If you’re worried about tomorrow, or next week, or next month, well, you’re not alone.
While it can seem natural to look outward and plan for what may or may not come, I challenge you to do something different: look inward. Mindfulness is a way to do that, and it refers to the practice of being present in the here and now and connecting with our inner selves to decrease feelings of stress and anxiety. For those who are inexperienced at practicing mindfulness, it can help to start by asking yourself questions like “What am I doing and feeling right now?” Take a moment, breathe, and reflect on what you’re feeling. Find yourself a quiet space in your home to sit for 15-20 minutes and guide yourself to a feeling of relaxation (There are plenty of videos on YouTube and mobile apps like Headspace to lead you through guided meditation.)
In the past handful of years, there has been an increasing amount of psychological research exploring the positive impacts of mindfulness. Evidence has shown that mindfulness can decrease indications of mental illness, such as depressive-like symptoms, but it can also decrease the physical aches and pains of everyday stress. If that doesn’t convince you to find a quiet place to meditate, why not take it to the next step? Further evidence suggests that practicing mindfulness outdoors has an even better effect—especially if you’re surrounded by greenery and fresh air. Nature has been scientifically linked to human-wellbeing. Parks with open meadows and trees have been shown to increase feelings of well-being in humans.
Another suggestion for embracing mindfulness and lowering your stress is to practice some yoga. Yoga is a perfect way to connect your body and mind in the present state. Guided sessions help ground you in the now and distract from the future or the past. I have been practicing yoga for about five years, and the best part about every practice is the ability to make it your own. You don’t have to be a master to enjoy it—make the practice easier if you’re feeling tired, or push yourself if you’re feeling like something harder. A 20-minute practice will help to ground your thoughts and help you better connect with yourself and the current state of the world through breathing and relaxation.
It always helps me to take a step back and remind myself that I am present now. I always remember that it’s ok to feel sad or angry, because it’s natural to feel that way. But those emotions are only a small part of the human experience. You deserve to feel joy and self-love. You deserve today and you deserve every day.
I’ll leave you with a brief poem by E.E. Cummings that inspires and motivates me to be mindful, and I’ve linked a few resources below that can help introduce you to meditation, yoga, and the benefits of green spaces on your health. Namaste.
dive for dreams
or a slogan may topple you
(trees are their roots
and wind is wind)
Trust your heart
if the seas catch fire
(and live by love
though the stars walk backward)