As humans, we are constantly stuck inside our minds. Minds think on their own, they tell people what to do and what to say and play a constant background track.
With the stresses and struggles of everyday life, especially in a time where life moves so quickly and so many aspects of life are accessible at the touch of a button, it’s easy for one to get too caught up in their own mind.
With increased use of social media and smartphones in general, we may feel as if we never are truly alone...but that’s not the case.
Practicing mindfulness can be done anywhere — in a room full of people, in the shower, on a plane, on a hike, in the morning, during your lunch break, or at night.
In a world where everyone moves so fast and often takes on more than they can handle, it is important and very valuable to take a step back and be within yourself for a moment without a thousand thoughts whizzing around in your head.
Mindfulness is natural and it is something we all have. According to Mindful.org, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing and not be overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
Mindfulness is readily available at all times. It is free, it doesn’t have to take very much time and it is a way to reflect and relax amidst whatever situation is playing out around you.
First and foremost, mindfulness improves your general health and wellbeing.
Focusing on the moment is a good way to become less caught up in the future, troubling events of the past or in worries.
“Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur, helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events,” according to content on HelpGuide.org found in Harvard Medical School’s Special Health Report “Positive Psychology.”
Mental health is improved because someone who practices mindfulness becomes less preoccupied with concerns of success and self-esteem and more capable of forming deeper connections with people.
Psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness because of the benefits that it can have on mental health. They consider it an important element in treatment of depression, substance abuse, anxiety and more.
Improved physical health is also a benefit of mindfulness. Scientists have found that mindfulness techniques help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain and improve sleep.
With a deeper focus on oneself and a deliberate reflection on personal behavior and experience, general focus is increased.
In a 2009 study done by Adam Moore and Peter Malinowski, psychologists at Liverpool John Moores University, it was found that mindfulness meditation affected participants’ ability to focus their attention on one subject and disregard distracting information.
How mindfulness can benefit college students:
On a more personal level for college students, mindfulness has been found to be an effective tool in addressing the issue of binge drinking and excessive alcohol consumption.
According to Bodenlos, Noonan, and Wells’ 2013 study, “it has been negatively linked with alcohol problems,” meaning that increased mindfulness can bring decreased alcohol related issues.
In another study, it was found that mindfulness can be an important link between symptoms of depression in college students and how often they drink to cope with life.
More mindful students are found to be less often engaged in problematic drinking and more aware of their actions and their consequences, according to a 2016 study by four psychology professors at Louisiana State University.
How to practice mindfulness:
1. Become still within yourself and become more relaxed, regardless of what’s going on around you. It helps to find a place to sit that you feel comfortable.
2. Notice the way that your body is interacting with the earth. Notice how you are sitting, how your body feels, etc.
3. Feel your breathing, experience the rhythm and acknowledge the sensation of your breath.
4. Make note of when your mind starts to wander. When you come to realize that it is wandering, bring your attention back to your breath.
5. Don’t judge or obsess over your wandering mind. If you find yourself lost in your thoughts, reset and come back.