Attending college serves as a significant milestone in an individual’s life. Students are often leaving home for the first time, pushing themselves outside their comfort zones, and seeking ways to expand their intellectual horizons. Though college may be the end of an educational journey for many, it signifies the beginning of a new chapter.
Although college provides individuals with invaluable resources such as access to renowned academic programs, extensive networking opportunities, and a foundation for life-long social groups, not all students can confidently navigate through them. Whether students are attempting to balance coursework and extracurricular activities or are struggling to find their designated path, stress and anxiety can make these efforts much more difficult.
With nearly 44% of college attendees experiencing some degree of anxiety or depression, schools are under increasing pressure to implement strategies that improve students’ mental health and physical health. That’s where mindfulness and meditation come in.
The human brain processes approximately 70,000 thoughts each day – that’s the equivalent of 48 thoughts every minute! While most people only process a fraction of these thoughts, bouncing from one to the next can prove distracting, thereby leading to a sense of overwhelm, stress, or anxiety. Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help students cope with any acute or chronic stressors.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness in the Western world, Mindfulness is “Awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Simply put, Mindfulness can be defined as present moment awareness. So often we ruminate over things that have happened in the past that we cannot change, or worry about things that may or may not happen in the future. Mindfulness can be a helpful tool to bring us back to the present moment so that we can see things more clearly.
Meditation is a tool that we practice to become more Mindful. We can train the mind to be present in the moment, which helps us to focus on the task at hand. Meditation helps us to re-center and ground ourselves. Mindfulness and meditation can be used in conjunction to provide stress reduction for students.
Mindfulness and Meditation provide many benefits beyond just stress reduction for students. Here are some of the top benefits:
As school assignments, social pressures, work obligations, and other responsibilities begin to accumulate, students find themselves under immense pressure with limited time and stretched resources – this causes the body to release the stress hormone, cortisol. Meditation can help the body to reduce this reaction and recreate a sense of homeostasis.
College students are known to frequently pull all-nighters or dedicate a minimal amount of time for sleep. Meditation can help calm the body and counteract the effects of an overstimulated mind. It ensures that a student’s sleep is restful, even if the length of time is shortened.
Individuals are often unaware of their thought patterns. When practicing mindfulness and meditation, students can identify any recurring thoughts or negative feelings. Students can then try and alter their thought perception to portray them in a more positive light.
Meditation requires individuals to focus for an extended period. As students learn to work through this challenging task, they should soon be able to apply this concept to outside scenarios.
Many people often underestimate the influence that one’s emotions play on the body. By learning to remain calm and in the present, students can better understand their feelings. Studies have found that college students with higher levels of mindfulness experienced lower levels of stress in response to academic stressors and used less defensive, more effective coping strategies.
Although it might take time to reap the full benefits of mindfulness and meditation, simply starting will have an almost immediate impact on overall mental health and physical health.
Every individual may go about meditation differently. The first step to successful meditation is finding a soothing environment and comfortable seated position that’ll allow students to focus on their inner thoughts and emotions.
When learning how to meditate, practice is key – it may take students multiple tries before they can master meditation. Here are a few of the most common steps that students can follow when setting themselves up to meditate:
Step 1: Sit or lie down in a way that feels natural and relaxes the muscles
Step 2: Use an alarm clock or timer to keep track of time and encourage meditation “periods”
Step 3: Focus on the body’s physical sensations
Step 4: Take deep breaths that draw attention to the rise and fall of the chest
Step 5: Allow the body to act in the way in which it needs to
When it comes to teaching students how to meditate, there’s no right or wrong way. It’s important to encourage students to meditate in whatever way feels best to them.
College students are bound to experience feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression at one point or another. Armed with the proper coping mechanisms, individuals can reduce the negative impact these emotions have on their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. By practicing mindfulness and meditation, students can learn skills that are transferable in any facet of life.
With a variety of educational and training programs, U-Thrive offers solutions to help college students overcome mental health roadblocks. Contact U-Thrive today to learn more about creating a positive and enlightening experience for students on campus and beyond.