You may have heard of the term, “mindfulness meditation.”
Derived from Eastern philosophy, mindfulness meditation is a technique that is becoming increasingly popular as research studies are beginning to recognize its numerous stress-relieving benefits.
According to researchers Hoffman and Gómez (2018), mindfulness is defined as “a process that leads to a mental state characterized by nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment experience, including one’s sensations, thoughts, bodily states, consciousness, and the environment, while encouraging openness, curiosity, and acceptance.”
Using mindfulness to draw your attention to what your senses are feeling in the present moment can help to calm the critical self-talk, worry, or physical nervousness that comes from academic anxiety.
There are a variety of mindfulness techniques that can be beneficial. It may help to incorporate these techniques into your daily routine, such as meditating before bed, in the morning, or on your way to class. Different people find different mindfulness strategies useful, so you may have to try a few to find which works best for you:
- Sitting meditation: Sit comfortably cross-legged on the floor or in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath as you sit in silence. Notice how your body feels when you breathe in and out. If your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to your breath. Do this for 2-3 minutes each session, and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable.
- Walking meditation: Go on a slow walk outside. As you walk, take time to notice your five senses: the things you hear, the colors you see, the outside smells, the breeze on your skin, and the feeling of your feet as they connect with the ground. When we walk across campus, we are often in a rush and miss these small details. Take this time to enjoy nature and the movement of your body with your full attention.
- Body scan meditation: Lay flat on a yoga mat, on the ground, or in your bed with your legs and arms uncrossed and your palms facing up. Starting with your toes, bring your focus to each part of your body one at a time, working your way up to the top of your head. For a relaxation bonus, slowly tense each part of your body as you focus on it and then fully relax it before moving on to the next one.
- Guided meditation: Download a guided meditation app or find a YouTube video of a guided meditation. Let the narrator walk you through the relaxation exercise and guide your awareness to the present moment.
- “Brain breaks:” Meditation doesn’t need to be long! Take 5-minute brain breaks as you study to give your mind time to rest and reset. Set a timer for 5 minutes, then put away your phone and study materials and focus on your breath until the timer rings.
- Yoga: Did you know that yoga is a form of mindfulness? As you do yoga, you practice meditation through developing awareness of your breath and body position. Take a yoga class or follow along with a YouTube instructor if you think a more active meditation is your style.
Becoming mindful of your present moment takes practice, so it’s okay if your mind tends to wander in the beginning of these exercises. When this happens, acknowledge your train of thought and gently bring your mind back to the present. With time, it will get easier. Don’t give up!
For Ball State Students:
The BSU Counseling Center also has a variety of resources for mindfulness:
- A more in-depth explanation video of mindfulness
- Mindfulness apps handout
- Mindfulness skills and activities worksheet
- Breathing exercises
- Radical acceptance and wise mind handouts
- Guided meditations on the Counseling Center YouTube channel
Hofmann, S. G., & Gómez, A. F. (2017). Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Anxiety and Depression. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 40(4), 739–749. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2017.08.008