More than 5,000 people took part in Learn Devon’s Mindfulness Challenge last week.

The five-day challenge was launched to help people to look after their mental health and wellbeing during the current lockdown.

It featured a series of 20-minute videos, providing people with an opportunity to practice mindfulness – training techniques for your mind and wellbeing – on a daily basis.

Feedback from those who took part in the challenge revealed that 67% felt more relaxed and 55% said it helped them cope better with lockdown. And the vast majority (92%) said they would recommend it to friends and family.

Among those who took part in the Mindfulness Challenge was Bridget Kirke, from Kingsbridge. She said: “I never understood anxiety, but I am isolating as I am on the critically vulnerable list. I also completely stopped working and haven’t been in a supermarket since March, but I can’t believe what a difference this has made to my life. My glass has always been ‘half full’ and full of positivity, but anxiety levels have been horrendous because of COVID. Until now! Thank you!”

Carole Tudor, from Barnstaple, said: “I found the challenge to be a really good focus for my day. It helped with my concentration and keeping me calm. Finding myself on my own during lockdown, this has made a big difference. I plan to continue with some of the techniques I learned in the future. I was really impressed by the quality of the tutor too. Paul was incredibly clear and articulate, and had a fantastic teaching style.”

Learn Devon, Devon County Council’s adult education service provider, also saw all of its wellbeing courses become fully booked within three days of the challenge starting, with more than 150 people enrolling in courses.

The Mindfulness Challenge was led by Paul Beard, a qualified meditation teacher and coach and yoga instructor for Learn Devon. He said: “We have been bowled over by the number of sign-ups and may I take this opportunity to thank Matt Rajczi from Learn Devon for all of his hard work in creating and organising the Challenge. The huge amount of interest just shows that under the stresses and strains of the pandemic, people are looking for ways to cope and manage that stress and it seems that for many of them mindfulness and meditation fits the bill. I always aim to teach in a down to earth, accessible and inclusive way and it’s been heartening to witness that meditation is not considered to be so fringe anymore.

“There’s no need to take on new beliefs other than believing in the power of your own mind to bring you the benefits of regular practice. Mindfulness and meditation is perfectly suitable for people of any faith, or none, and it’s always wonderful to see my Learn Devon learners and wider students reconnecting with their natural happiness and wellbeing that true awareness of – and purposeful attention to – the present moment uncovers.”

Photo of Councillor Rufus Gilbert

Councillor Rufus Gilbert

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “The Mindfulness Challenge received an amazing response and it’s encouraging that so many people have decided to take this positive step in looking after their mental health. Good mental health is an important part of our overall wellbeing, and the challenges brought about by the pandemic have certainly increased the strain on everyone’s lives. The take-up of the course speaks volumes for the quality of the learning being provided, but it also tells us that people are looking for help with their wellbeing during lockdown. I’m pleased that Learn Devon has been able to play a part in supporting people.”

For more information about upcoming Learn Devon courses, please visit the Learn Devon website.

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