Find calm and get your zen on with these books, creative exercises and virtual sessions designed to soothe the mind during these anxious times
With the lockdown officially extended another three weeks, now seems like the perfect time to slow down and find a bit of inner calm. Whether it's picking up a book that speaks to our present moment, or signing up for an online mindfulness workshop, here are a few of our top picks for this anxious time. The most important thing, however, is staying safe and figuring out whatever works for you.
Matt Haig is known for his deeply personal writing on subjects around being human and finding happiness in our bleakest moments. Despite being published in 2018, his book Notes on a Nervous Planet feels more pertinent than ever before, as he explores what we've lost in the fast-paced, anxious lives that people are encouraged to live, and how to remain connected to our own humanity in an increasingly-technological world.
Marie Kondo came into our homes (and our hearts) through her Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, but her book about the KonMari method, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is both a beautiful treatise and a step-by-step guide about how to find energy and confidence through the process of cleaning your home, and recognising what it is that truly brings you joy. With so many of us hunkering down at home for the foreseeable future, Kondo's guidebook of cheerful, practical wisdom could serve us all well.
In a similar vein, 'people's philosopher' Alain de Botton asks big questions about the relationship between our happiness and our home in his book The Architecture of Happiness. A thought-provoking analysis into the history of interior design and evolving architectural tastes, de Botton's book will make you think about your own home in new ways, and how we can find beauty and satisfaction through our material surroundings.
For anyone struggling with feelings of loneliness and disconnection during this period of self-isolation, Olivia Laing's The Lonely City is a revelatory and deeply consoling book which explores her own loneliness during a period of personal crisis, as well as how artists throughout history have both struggled creatively with, and found solace in, a deeply human state of being.
Activity and guide books
Adult colouring books are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, as people seek out the kind of therapeutic calm that can only come with colouring between the lines. Emma Farraron's Mindfulness Colouring Book contains intricate swirls and designs that'll keep you occupied for hours, while Johanna Basford's Secret Garden colouring book features stunning illustrations, as well as small creatures hiding amidst the foliage to be discovered. Essential Art Therapy Exercises also offers a toolkit of therapeutic art exercises to help us get through stressful and anxious periods in our life, from drawing, painting, sculpting and more.
For those needing a bit of structure to their days, 365 Days of Art is an inspiring journal that contains a new creative exercise for every day of the year, from something as simple as a sketching exercise, to sophisticated tutorials on shading, calligraphy and portraiture. Hopefully we'll be out of lockdown well before the year is up, but these exercises are a great way to remain creative and sensitive to the world around us. The 31 Day Mindfulness Challenge features a set of cards, each with a daily task to help us find calm within the present moment. Whereas those who seriously want to get stuck into this mindfulness business may prefer Mindfulness: The Eight-Week Meditation Programme for a Frantic World, which contains exercises and guided meditations based on mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.
Art therapy events
Brenda Coyle leads the whole family through simple, meditative creative exercises in Relaxation Through Art (Tue 21 Apr), wherein she posts easy-to-follow activities on her YouTube channel. Meanwhile, arts psychotherapists Rosemarie Fordham and Rosanna Cooper are hosting a series of creative therapy workshops via Zoom titled Creative Discoveries (Sat 18 Apr, Sat 16 May, Sat 30 May), which promises to work with whatever art materials you've got at home. Taking place every Saturday over a three-week period, art therapist and mindfulness teacher Nicky Roland leads sessions on body-based mindfulness practices and self-compassion at Art Therapy, Mindfulness and the Body, Heart Mind (Sat 6 Jun, Sat 13 Jun, Sat 20 Jun).
Meditation courses and events
For those interested in exploring what meditation can do for their wellbeing during this anxious time, meditation practitioners are offering a variety of virtual courses, with several different price points to choose from. The Glasgow Zen Group are hosting free, one-day introductory courses on zen meditation (Sat 9 May & Sat 13 Jun), while Core Glow are hosting meditation workshops, priced at £12 for four sessions (Wed 6 May, Wed 20 May, Wed 3 Jun). Over in Australia, TeachSurfing is hosting a free one-day introductory workshop titled Meditation Made Easy (Wed 29 Apr), suitable for those interested in learning the principles of meditation. Meanwhile, Beeja Meditation are hosting a live, interactive Learn to Meditate Course (Fri 17 Apr–Fri 29 May), costing £199 for three sessions. There's also the acclaimed app Headspace, which offers a free 10-day course that lets you work on yourself at your own pace.
In terms of short, regular sessions, ideal for those wanting a bit of routine to their days, As We Live and Breathe are also hosting an early Online Morning Meditation every weekday (Mon-Fri until Fri 29 May) for those wanting to get the day started off on the right foot, while Jo McCoy leads audiences via Zoom through kundalini yoga practices, incorporating deep meditation and mantras (Tuesdays and Fridays until Tue 23 Jun). Jangama Meditation runs a free session every Sunday (Sun 19 Apr–Sun 24 May), while Kalyan Yoga's free Meditation Meet Up takes place every Wednesday (Wed 22 Apr–Wed 13 May). For those wanting a bit of calm before bedtime, there's an Online Evening Meditation Group held every Tuesday for a fiver (Tue 21 Apr–Tue 28 Jul). The Mindful Globe are hosting weekly online drop-in Calm & Connect meditation classes (Wed 22 Apr & Wed 29 Apr), payable by donation, with proceeds split between the mental health charity Mind and Lewisham-based refugee charity AFRIL.
Mindfulness courses and events
Mindfulness can come in many different forms; luckly, there's a wide range of courses and workshops being offered virtually at the moment, so there's bound to be one that meets your needs. For those looking to incorporate mindfulness into their lockdown routine, there's a free Somatic Mindfulness Meditation Practice every Monday morning (Mon 20 Apr–Mon 31 Aug), and a Relax & Sleep session every Friday evening (Fri 17 Apr–Fri 25 Dec), for those who are finding it difficult to get some rest at the moment. FremantleMind is also hosting a weekly mindfulness hour, titled FreoMindfulness, every Monday at noon (Mon 20 Apr–Mon 29 Jun).
If you're wanting to take a deeper dive into the subject, there are also a variety of mindfulness courses being offered online. Kindful Company's Online Mindfulness Morning for Beginners (Sun 19 Apr) leads participants on a two-hour session of mindfulness practices such as meditation, gentle movement practices and discussions about living in the moment. The Mindful Living Coach is hosting an Introduction to Mindfulness Course (Sun 19 Apr–Sun 10 May) across four days, covering topics like mindful eating, guided meditation and more.
Simply Mindfulness' Online Eight-Week Mindfulness Course (Mon 20 Apr–Mon 8 Jun) is hosted over Zoom, and participants will receive a certificate of completion at the end, while WiseMind Yoga is hosting a free Stress Less Online Seminar in mindfulness, meditation and yoga every Thursday (Thu 23 Apr–Thu 17 Sep). Those interested in finding out how to apply mindfulness practices to various parts of their life and work can join A Mindful Society Online Conference (Fri 1–Mon 4 May), which will feature keynote lectures, a virtual marketplace, practice sessions and a curated reference library.
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