How is your Mental Health with Social Distancing?

In this last month the unthinkable has become a reality, as around the world we are being confined to spend most of our time in our homes, unable to g

In this last month the unthinkable has become a reality, as around the world we are being confined to spend most of our time in our homes, unable to go about our normal daily lives with the threat of the Covid-19.

As our fast paced yang lifestyle in the western world has been stymied, we have had to become more yin. We have had to stop and take pause, breathe and slow down to reassess what is important in our lives. Life is full of polarities. We have experienced to extreme both the yin and the yang of life.

For those of you who have never be drawn to meditation, in some way it may have found itself uninvited at your door these past weeks, now we have this extended time of confinement. A kind of ‘moving around the house meditation’.

No one said meditation is an easy route. Ask anyone who has done a Vipassana Meditation – a 10 day silent retreat, where you primarily focus on your in and out breath, and reflect on the equanimity of all things. A simple concept, but in practice, possibly one of the hardest things you might ever do.

Once you get ‘used to’ the many hours of sitting a day (personally my body was screaming to move, in this case definitely not mind over matter), there is then the accepted possibility for first timers that halfway through on about day 4 or 5 you will be tearing down the walls, inwardly screaming to get out. This peak then subsides, and in a few days if you are lucky you may have offloaded a few kilos of emotional baggage, to be left feeling lighter and calmer - fairly impressive for 10 days. I did a Vipassana retreat around twenty years ago outside of Bangkok, in a turbulent time of my life, and I have to confess that ten days was not quite long enough for me..

Luckily we are not quite that physically restricted right now. Instead, we have different challenges, dealing with a deep sense of the unknown on many levels with no pre-defined cut off date. However, just like with Vipassana Meditation, the biggest struggle of all is the struggle in our minds, and having to adapt. Rather than place a value judgement on the situation ie of it being good or bad (whilst not wanting to dismiss all the terrible suffering that many have experienced), one could argue simply that our situation is now different. People all over the world suffer terribly on a daily basis, but many of those suffering are often in poorer countries, and their plight is generally given scant attention in the press.

And in this time of social confinement we are realising more than ever the simple things in life that matter, such as the importance of real human connection. Messaging on social media is a valuable but incomparable substitute for human interaction. My sixteen year old has been suffering terribly from the lack of regular face to face social contact (not to mention the prospect of growing up in such an unpredictable world). On the flip side, and there always is one, he has started to take an interest in the garden, noting when is refuse day and developing his culinary skills.

It would be too easy to spiral into negativity and despair about the current situation but our human spirit is much stronger than that. I trust that there are some of you out there who are hopefully and quietly optimistic that a new paradigm is being created that is going to shift humanity’s self-serving and narrow viewpoints. When looking at cancer survivors, Bernie Seigel, a Yale University surgeon started writing about hope as a powerful force for healing and of unconditional love as being the most powerful stimulant of the immune system [1].

Beneath the surface of this lockdown period, there have been many silver linings so far – planet regeneration, unprecedented human kindness, bravery, strength and stoicism – and there may be more miracles to happen yet.

Whilst some of us in total isolation may crave real physical contact, we are not living in a single cell with no light, only being passed bread and water through a hole in the door. The power of the video call means that we can still look into each other’s eyes, the windows of our soul when we speak and raise our levels of oxytocin, the bonding hormone. In these online connections, we can still share smiles, empathy, listening and support, in short random acts of kindness, which further boost oxytocin levels and release serotonin and dopamine, which calm us, and give us pleasure and happiness [2].

Kindness and compassion in effect create the opposite of stress in our bodies. It promotes growth in the left hand side of our brain and the production of oxytocin plays a role in the wound healing process. Oxytocin also reduces blood pressure and repairs the lining of the blood vessels, which counteracts the micro tears in our arteries that can be caused by chronic stress. In addition practicing compassion tones our vagus nerve, the main nerve in our parasympathetic or ‘rest and digest’ nervous system [3].

From the quantum perspective the universe is one indivisible, dynamic whole; a complex system of interdependent physical parts and energy fields that communicate with each other, in a sophisticated holistic network [4]. Thus our frequencies can travel far and wide, and as some of us reconnect with old friends and colleagues living far away across the air waves, and connect more with loved ones abroad, we are on some level creating a worldwide distant healing. In my recent zoom dance classes, we have been able to share experiences, frustrations, our hopes and our joy. Physically we may be apart, but energetically we are very much in contact.

And whilst we can’t physically touch, we can still be touched metaphorically. More than ever right now we may feel emotionally touched by the words of a writer, a piece of beautiful music, a performance we see online. If we have access to nearby nature, we can connect with the living plants and trees, put our feet on the ground, and make contact with the earth itself. Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day and I listened to a beautiful meditation that took me to sparkling lakes, snow capped mountains, majestic trees and singing birds. As my heart opened and reached out to honour this beautiful, sacred earth that we need to take care of, my heart field extended far and beyond the boundaries of my small garden where I was sitting and my spirit soared. I did indeed feel a deep sense of connection that travelled far beyond the confines of my body and home.



1 Dispenza, J, Breaking the Habit of being Yourself, (2012), Hay House, UK


3 Notes from a talk by Dr David Hamilton, How Your Mind can Heal Your Body, The Isbourne, Cheltenham, 2019.

4 Lipton, B, The Biology of Belief, (2005), Hay House, UK