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An easy activity to help you protect your mental health and find your zen

22 May 2020 - by YMCA of Greater Toronto
Every one of us has a responsibility to protect ourselves and our communities by practicing physical distancing. It’s a crucial precaution, but we know it can also feel tough sometimes — as can the ongoing updates we’re all hearing in the news.

To stay strong and positive, we all need to protect our mental health. Our YMCA Camps team is here with a super-simple, soothing activity they usually do during out-trips: soloing.

What’s soloing?

Soloing is a great way to practice mindfulness (and physical distancing). Basically, you work on turning your focus inwards and concentrating on your own state of mind, while in the presence of others. It’s sort of like a group meditation! Each of you simply sit, soak in your surroundings, and contemplate whatever comes to mind. It can be as long or as short as you’d like.

If you’re fortunate enough to have your own backyard, or live near a low-traffic green space, you and the members of your household can head outside to make your soloing expedition feel more like an authentic camp experience. But you can solo just fine from your living room, or, if you’re home alone, even with friends and family over FaceTime.

Here's how to get started:

  • Nominate someone to facilitate the exercise. The facilitator should walk your group through the rest of these steps, below, but they can participate as well.

  • If you’re outside, find a low-traffic place to set up. You want to make sure you won’t be interrupted by others walking by (and also make sure you’re keeping the recommended two metres apart from people who aren’t in your household!). If you’re inside with your family, roommate, or whoever else you’re staying home with, gather in a comfortable shared space and take a seat.

  • The facilitator should set the stage for your soloing session, reminding your group to focus your attention on the sounds, smells, sights, and other sensations around you. If you’d like, you can journal or draw while you solo to capture what you’re experiencing. You shouldn’t be interacting with the other group members at this point, or sharing your observations; the point is to turn your attention inward, even when you’re with others.

  • The facilitator decides how long the activity should last. Once it’s over, they can bring your group back into a circle for a little debrief, where you can discuss things like:

    • Where your mind wandered off to

    • Things you saw, heard, or felt

    • What the shared silence made you feel

    • How long you think you sat there for

Why soloing is special

The interesting thing about soloing is that it’s not very interesting, when you really think about it! You’re just sitting there, thinking. But during stressful times like these, it’s critical to take time for yourself, reflect quietly, be mindful, and live in the present moment. Soloing is exactly the type of activity we should all be participating in right now, to help us appreciate the everyday sensations, details, and feelings that we usually brush past.


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