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Stressed about COVID-19? This Ohio State prof wants to help

Weekly webinar will teach benefits of mindfulness meditation

For the past 10 years, Ruchika Prakash has been studying the benefits of mindfulness techniques for older adults and those with chronic health conditions like multiple sclerosis.

The results have been promising. With the COVID-19 pandemic upending people’s lives, Prakash, who is an associate professor of psychology at The Ohio State University, saw an opportunity to help more people learn mindfulness to deal with their stress.

Prakash will offer a free, online 8-week webinar for the public on mindfulness meditation. The first weekly session begins Wednesday, April 22, at noon. Other sessions will follow each Wednesday at noon.

Mindfulness meditation involves cultivating the practice of intentionally paying attention to the present moment in a nonjudgmental and accepting manner, Prakash said.

Ruchika Prakash“Right now, it is more relevant than ever. We’re all thinking about how this pandemic is going to unfold and about the future of our country and future of the world,” she said.

“It is important to plan, but if you’re caught up in constant worry, you’re not going to be productive and you’re going to end up in a cycle of anxiety. That’s where mindfulness techniques can help.”

In her research, Prakash has found that MS patients who took part in a mindfulness program managed their negative emotions, including worry, better than those who didn’t take part. Her team, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is now studying the same program in a sample of older adults.

In the one-hour webinars, Prakash will begin by leading participants in a mindfulness practice, such as focusing on breathing. She will then briefly lecture about an aspect of mindfulness, give people ideas of what they can practice during the coming week and take questions.

These webinars are based on longer 2½-hour sessions that her team currently uses in studies with older adults and MS patients. Prakash and her team had already planned to make them into online sessions, but the pandemic led them to quickly put together these shortened sessions.

“We wanted to get the results of our research out to the public now because of all the concerns regarding the pandemic. It is the right thing to do,” she said.

Those who want to learn more about mindfulness meditation can watch a series of videos Prakash produced and placed on her lab’s YouTube channel.

Registration for the webinars is required before each session and can be completed at this link. There is a limit of 500 participants.

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