I never thought I would say that I practice meditation, but now I can. Over the last year, I started to practice mindfulness both in a group setting and on my own. Mindfulness has helped me to become more aware of the signals my body is sending me and how I can work to make sure I am taking the best care of myself both physically and mentally. 

What is Mindfulness?

For those who don't know about mindfulness meditation, basically it is a practice that is focused on the present moment. You might be thinking to yourself "my mind is always boggling with different thoughts and everything I have to do", but let me tell you that it is possible to turn that off for a few minutes. Mindfulness focuses on the breath and is done by inhaling and exhaling with a slight pause in between. 

This might sound easy enough, but the whole point is to breathe deeply filling your lungs with oxygen, pausing, and then exhaling through your mouth. The pause is crucial because it is the time to let go of the worries and thoughts running through your head. If the thoughts are that important, then they will come back after your meditation is over. If the thought is pressing and needs to get done immediately, then you can go and do that because you were now made aware of it. 

Mindfulness also emphasizes being kind and gentle with yourself. During our everyday lives, we tend to be very judgmental of our actions and that of others, but mindfulness urges practitioners to breathe slowly and gently emphasizing that importance. Slowing down is also a crucial part of mindfulness because our typical everyday life as college students consists of running between different classes, doing homework, going to extra circulars, and socializing. Sometimes it is easy to forget that it is necessary to slow down.

Benefits of Mindfulness

That is just a basic overview of mindfulness, but the practice also comes with health benefits that can be useful to those of any age range. 

1. Reduces Anxiety

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and ever since starting mindfulness, I have noticed my anxiety slowly decrease. The anxiety does not necessarily go away, but you become more aware and mindful of what is truly important to you and what is worth worrying about versus what is really not. Breathing deeply also brings oxygen into your body which is a natural relaxant which can also reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety such as rapid heart beat and sweating. 

2. Decrease Depressive Symptoms

I also have Dysthymia which is a form of depression. Although I am still depressed most days of my life, when I practice mindfulness it allows me to escape from my sadness and go to a  relaxed state which is something I rarely experience. According to Psychology Today, Mindfulness "has been found to decrease depressive symptoms, anxiety, and stress in college students, as well as increasing self-compassion when compared with yoga alone (Falsafi, 2016)." Mindfulness won't cure depression, but it is one of the coping mechanisms that can be used to get through everyday life. 

3. Increases Attention Span

For us college students, it is usually pretty hard to sit through a two lecture while paying attention the entire time. Mindfulness has been shown to help you stay focused on tasks for longer periods if practiced over time. Mindfulness helps one to become more self-aware so they are more easily able to recognize when they are becoming distracted or losing focus to what is going on around them. 

Final Thoughts

For those of you who are considering doing mindfulness, I would recommend trying it a few times before deciding if you like it or not. At first I found it difficult to sit and try to "think about not thinking", but after time it became easier and helped me to relax. 

I attend the group mindfulness sessions on my campus and I would suggest looking into the health center on your campus to see if there is something similar held for students on a weekly basis. You might want to watch Netflix for an hour, but trust me when I say you will be glad you went to mindfulness meditation instead.