In previous articles, we have discussed the importance of managing stress both as a preventive health strategy and as a regular practice to help maintain well-being. The pandemic and other current events have generated a unique set of stressors. If you are working remotely, you might find yourself struggling to concentrate on work, keeping irregular sleep hours, or burning out from video calls. A daily mindfulness practice can help support your well-being and work performance whether you continue to work from home or go back to the office.
At the core of mindfulness practices is the art of meditation. Meditation can help soothe feelings of loneliness as we stay stranded at home from our friends and family. Studies show that it may help regulate mood and anxiety disorders, reduce stress and anxiety, and make us less prone to distraction. Mindfulness meditation can also promote our physical health as the relaxation can help lower blood pressure.
Creating an environment that is conducive to relaxation and inner focus can help you get the most out of your practice, whatever your skill level. Learn more how to curate the best meditation experience below!
Breath is the lifeline of any mindfulness practice, so the air quality in your space is essential. Working remotely may increase the time you spend cooking, vacuuming, and cleaning; all of these activities can generate pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Additionally, combustion material (e.g., candles and tobacco); building materials, furnishings, and fabrics; and cleaning products, among other sources, can all emit air pollutants into the indoor environment, and allergens from sources such as pests, pets, mold, and pollen can be present in indoor air as well. Pollutants can also infiltrate your home from outdoors. Exposure to particulate matter pollution can cause short-term symptoms such as headaches and eye, nose and throat irritation, as well as longer-term issues including respiratory and cardiovascular effects.
Air purifiers can help remove pollutants from the air. If you own a standalone or portable air purifier, use it to clean the air in your space before and during your mindfulness practice. Remember to periodically check the filters on your ventilation fan, air purifiers, or even A/C units: they are expendable, and usually need to be cleaned every few months and replaced every year or two in order for the system to effectively clean your air. Ventilation, or the introduction of fresh air into your space, is also important. If you don’t have a good ventilation system in your home, try opening the window to get some fresh air if the weather and outdoor air quality is good.
Research shows that exposure to nature benefits our health and well-being, helping to decrease depression and anxiety, increase attentional capacity, and improve recovery from job stress and illness. Meditating in a natural setting can facilitate your mindfulness practice by restoring depleted attentional resources and drawing your attention to the present. Ideally, find a quiet place outdoors where you can connect with nature while maintaining social distancing. You can also create connections to nature indoors, using houseplants, window views, or even photographs or art featuring natural elements.
Lighting can also help create a better environment for meditation. Natural lighting can be great for meditations centered around restoration and focus at the start of your day or during a break while you work from home, while dim lighting can help you destress and relax at the end of the day. This type of lighting exposure is also in tune with your circadian rhythm, a 24-hour internal sleep and wake cycle that mirrors natural sun patterns.
Another way to boost the effects of meditation and relaxation is through aromatherapy. Aromatherapy harnesses the natural essences of plants to help balance our moods and overall well-being. While research is limited, select studies suggest that aromatherapy may help reduce stress levels and improve performance, mental clarity, mood, and sleep. While scents like lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus are typically considered calming, scent preferences are very personal. Find a scent that works for you. For example, if you enjoy baking, vanilla might be the scent that brings you the most peace of mind as you meditate.
Noise pollution is a stressor that can easily go unnoticed. Therefore, it is important to find a quiet space to meditate free of aural distractions and electronic interference. That said, we often use our phones to guide us through our practice, from meditation apps to soft biophilic sounds such as ocean waves or birdsongs. Just remember to turn all other notifications off and place your screen face down once your track begins. This will help your mind relax and focus in the moment as you practice mindfulness.
We hope that these mindful environment tips help you achieve a more impactful and fulfilling meditation experience. The most important thing is to feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed. Happy meditating!
Edited by Carolina Campanella, Radhika Singh and Carolyn Swope