Between academic, extracurricular and social commitments, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Add the fact that it’s the start of a new school year, and things can feel like they’re spiraling out of control very quickly. As college students, one way that we can reduce stress is through mindfulness. But what is it, and how can it be helpful?
Mindfulness is about paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment. It can help you manage, address and accept your feelings and thoughts, ultimately leading to a more relaxed life. Mindfulness takes many different forms (like taking a task you do every day, such as eating, and being present while completing it, rather than multitasking).
How it’s practiced can differ from person to person.
Alex White ’18, is one student who practices mindfulness. She started meditating in high school, continues to practice these techniques and recommends that others try it for themselves.
“Even if you don’t know where to start, as long as you go into mindfulness with an open mind, you can begin practicing it on your own,” White says. “By practicing mindfulness, you can calmly address and acknowledge how you’re feeling right now in this exact moment, so later on you can recognize those feelings and have a better understanding of how to handle them as they creep back up.”
Here are some ways you can practice mindfulness while at UNH and after graduation.
Meditation is the process of relaxing your body and focusing on your breath. One meditation technique that’s good for beginners is a breath meditation. Focusing on breathing in and out can calm the mind and help you relax. If you want to try meditation and breathing exercises, but don’t know where to start, calming music and guided meditations are quick YouTube searches away.
Meditation has even been taught in some UNH courses. Associate professor of justice studies and philosophy Drew Christie covers meditation in PHIL 520: Introduction to Eastern Philosophy as meditation is used in most Eastern philosophical traditions.
“We start most classes with a meditation, often related to the tradition we are studying,” Christie says. “Knowing and disciplining the mind benefits us and those around us.”
Read a Book
If you want some tips on how to practice mindfulness, read a book on the topic. First-year students were expected to read “The Mindful Twenty-Something” over the summer, which introduces the idea of mindfulness through, among other things, a meditation experiment. The experiment involves taking 10 minutes to meditate, writing down 2-3 things for which one is grateful, and performing one task mindfully for about 20 days. Lihy Buchbinder ’21 read the book and tried it.
“I decided to fully commit to the experiment and do my 10 minutes of meditation first thing in the morning,” Buchbinder says. “It ended up being very successful; it was relaxing, helped me clear my mind and start my day more peacefully.”
At first, Buchbinder found it was difficult to meditate for 10 minutes, but she stuck with trying the techniques.
“I liked the experiment and meditation in general because it gave me an opportunity to observe my mind at work, which was very interesting,” she adds. “I am hoping to continue this in the future, leaving the 10-minute meditation as part of my morning routine.”
Kathleen Grace-Bishop, director of health education and support services at Health & Wellness, leads the classes.
“There are a lot of different ways to practice mindfulness — we are trying to offer a lot of these to students to make it accessible,” Grace-Bishop says. “Groups provide a way to learn from others and provide structure for students to practice different techniques. Classes teach students how to be mindful from different perspectives.”
As another option, drop-in meditation and mindfulness sessions for UNH students and employees are offered during the following days and times:
- Monday: 12:30 p.m. – 1 p.m. at Health & Wellness in the second-floor conference room
- Thursday: 12:30 p.m. – 1 p.m. at Thrive, the Health & Wellness satellite office in the Hamel Rec Center
It can be easy to zone out during a workout, but paying more attention to your actions can have benefits.
Although you might not have realized it, coloring can be an effective way to practice mindfulness. Concentrating on filling in lines and selecting colors can feel peaceful as the brain focuses on the task at hand, blocking out negative thoughts. Print out images online, buy a book or stop by Thrive and ask for some coloring sheets (you can even stay and color there).
What are you waiting for, Wildcats? Take some time to live in the moment. Your life could be better as a result.