September 4, 2020

With everyone facing heightened levels of uncertainty and stress right now, nurturing our mental health and wellbeing is more important than ever. So, what’s the best approach?

As COVID-19 spreads anxiety across the globe, more of us are turning to at-home exercise – and not just for physical fitness. Since January, Les Mills has reported that 76 percent of users say stress relief is a key motivator, while 72 percent cite the desire to boost their mental health.

Every day, thousands of people are taking a more serene approach to stress release, streaming meditations, mindfulness sessions and yoga classes into their lounge or bedroom. Sam B from the UK is one of them. “I am an NHS employee working my ass off in this stressful time of COVID-19 pandemic,” she says. “At work, all we discuss is COVID-19, at home, I discuss with my children the importance of handwashing, with my husband I discuss the impact of COVID-19 on his job and our financial circumstances. Thank god for Les Mills Mindfulness. It is my time to switch off and empty my brain for a short time.”

Mindfulness is a meditation practice that helps you focus on the present moment and integrate awareness into your everyday life. One of the underlying goals is to shift your focus from unproductive thoughts. It’s considered a great way to decrease stress, plus it’s shown to increase your exercise performance too.

Neurobiological studies suggest mindfulness practices can have an effect on the plasticity of brain structure and functioning. When this happens, the main neurocognitive mechanisms affected include emotional regulation, self-awareness, and attention control. Research indicates mindfulness meditation encourages our minds to operate less reactively, helping us function more seamlessly when emotions are activated. Interestingly, studies show those who partake in this type of meditation have greater compassion – for others and themselves.

Kylie Gates, Les Mills Creative Director, first discovered mindful meditation through teaching BODYBALANCE classes, where there’s a short 8-10 minute period of relaxation and meditation at the end. She now tries to meditate every day.

“I love the after-effects, I get a real feeling of clarity and focus.” Some days Kylie follows a Les Mills Mindfulness session, others she does a more lengthy meditation practice, and sometimes she just focuses her mind for a few minutes at her desk. “It’s so easy to get comfortable, contact your breath, and focus your mind’s attention on the breath.”

She says that if she has a lot on her mind she can find it hard to drift off to sleep.”I start to meditate and before I know it I’m asleep.” Kylie loves how the practice helps release any emotional stress. “It’s my time to check in with myself, to really check in with my heart space. I allow all the emotions to rise up so that they don’t manifest in my body.”

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