It has become too normal for Penn State students to check email and Facebook in class, while also texting, preparing for work and worrying about a troubled relationship.
Our online interconnectedness compared to past generations, among other stressors, has taken an undeniable toll on our well-being. More than 50 percent of Millenials ages 18 to 33 reported enough stress to lose sleep in the past month, according to a recent American Psychological Association study.
What if some relief could come not from Adderall or sleeping pills, but from engaging the mind? Thankfully, Eastern methods of stress reduction and mindful-ness are entering the mainstream conversation in the United States when it comes to relaxing Generation Y.
The U.S. Marine Corps is expanding meditation training for some of the nation’s best warriors. Large corporations like Google and Procter and Gamble are also emphasizing mindfulness in employees.
Celebrities like Paul McCartney, Katy Perry and Russell Brand have publicly expressed their support for the fast-growing David Lynch Foundation, which funds Transcendental Meditation education for students and veterans.
Millenials have something to gain from this enthusiasm. Practices like meditation have been proven to reduce blood pressure, boost creativity and improve overall health.
A group of college students who practiced Transcendental Meditation twice a day were found to be more rested with improved brain functioning by the International Journal of Psychophysiology.
In one of my personal favorite studies, Massachusetts General Hospital researchers reported in 2011 that gray matter in the brain measurably increased in test subjects who participated in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program.
Yes, meditating regularly can make you smarter. Meditation can generally be defined as a method of focusing attention and finding inner peace. It is not simply chanting “om” by a Buddhist temple’s waterfall, sitting with legs crossed. The habit has many offshoots that are both secular or religious, with or without mantras. Multiple techniques exist, and finding the best fit can be extremely important.
Over the weekend, alternative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra posted a great piece on the Huffington Post about meditation myths. He writes that meditation does not take years of devoted practice, nor does it mean emptying the mind completely.
“We can’t stop or control our thoughts, but we can decide how much attention to give them,” Chopra writes.
The mindfulness is the key, not experiencing some hallucination involving a spirit animal. Stress reduction runs deep in Chinese society, with retired people practicing tai chi and meditating together.
While spending time in China during last week’s spring break, a few of the students I met said they enjoy meditating regularly and without any religious subtext. For them, meditating permits insanely long stretches of studying and some relief from parents’ demands.
If it can work for Chinese students, it can work for those American ones too, particularly when the two systems of education are so often compared.
In my own life, meditation has helped me to see anxiety as an inclination more than something that is determined by outside events.
While I’m often stressed, meditation helps me to hone in on what I want to accomplish during the day and find fulfillment. Meditation is more than just a competitive advantage for students and, as Chopra notes, it is not an escape. It allows for new, outside-the-box ways of thinking about the mind and oneself.
I ask that students keep an open mind about the pleasures of meditation and stop clicking that mouse for a while.
Mike Hricik is a senior majoring in print journalism and is The Daily Collegian’s Monday columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.