Mindfulness Meditation as a Tool for Navigating College

By Nolan Hovell on April 30, 2021

It’s no secret that while college can be the most exciting time of our lives with a wave of new experiences, it can also be the most stressful. Mindfulness meditation is the answer. With the classwork, new social circles, and greater independence, it is imperative that we find a way to balance all of these elements. While there are many resources and people to aid in this endeavor, there is one habit that if cultivated, can provide us with the strength and courage to take on our busy schedules. I’m not talking about physical strength, although that is important. I am talking about mental strength and clarity of mind. These skills can be achieved through the practicing of mindfulness meditation.

Though the practice is 2,500+ years old, it wasn’t until 1970 that the traditions made their way to America. In the past decade, meditation began trending. Now, most people have at least heard of mindfulness in some capacity. There are apps like the Calm app, and Netflix has a show called Headspace Guide to Sleep. Many sports teams, schools, and even police departments are now integrating mindfulness meditation into their programs.

Photo via Pexels

The instructions are simple. In fact, you may already be doing the first step right now. Take a seat cross-legged or in a chair, focus on the breath, and when you notice your mind getting lost in thought, gently bring your attention back to the breath. This seemingly easy practice can actually be a bit challenging. When utilized, the main benefits are clarity, strength, and stability. This ancient practice has now been verified by scientists as being beneficial for mental health, and possibly for physical health.

When placed in an MRI machine, studies show experienced practitioners of mindfulness have a shrunken amygdala. Meditation actually changes the shape of your brain! The amygdala is the fear center or reaction center of the brain. It is where the fight or flight response is activated. Experienced meditators show improved mood regulation, decreased effects of anxiety and depression, and are generally less reactive to negative stimuli. While mindfulness meditation has the potential to be beneficial for anyone with sustained practice, college is an excellent time to form new and healthy habits that will aid in overcoming the various challenges that come with this time of our lives.

Any individual is able to start meditating, but having a skilled teacher can motivate you to maintain a steady practice and help guide you. Most cities and some yoga studios offer public classes. There are also ample resources online.

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