How College Students Can Practice Mindfulness
College is a time of flourishing independence, new adventures, and personal growth. Your college years may be some of the most important and formative of your life. However, college can also be challenging. Like many students, you may struggle with anxiety, stress, depression, and other mental health issues.
There are several ways to manage your mental health, and practicing mindfulness can reduce stress and anxiety. This practice doesn’t necessarily replace therapy or medical treatments, so you should continue to follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations. But practicing mindfulness can be an effective form of self-care, improving your mental health and reducing the adverse effects of stress and emotional turmoil.
Start a Journal
Keeping a journal is an excellent way to practice mindfulness. It’s also an activity that’s very easy to start – all you need is a pen and paper or a blank page on your computer. There are numerous journaling techniques, but a simple way to start is to list three things you’re grateful for every day.
Learn To Meditate
Possibly the most well-known mindfulness technique, meditation can help you quiet your thoughts and learn how to be present in any situation. Through meditation, you can learn how to reduce distractions, improve self-awareness, and control strong emotions. You can take a class or use an app for your practice, but these are the basics:
- Set aside time. Even a few minutes every day can be beneficial.
- Get comfortable. Many people sit to meditate, though you can lie down or walk instead. Whichever way you choose, make sure you relax without sacrificing your posture.
- Focus on your breath. Consciously pay attention to each inhale and exhale.
- Deal with distractions. When your mind wanders, simply acknowledge it and then return your attention to your breath.
- Do a body scan. Perform a systematic check of your body from top to bottom, recognizing the feelings and sensations in each area.
Many people find meditation awkward at first. If your first few sessions are uncomfortable, be patient with yourself as you continue to learn and practice.
Developing a grateful attitude can help reduce the negative thoughts and emotions that often coincide with anxiety and stress. Cultivating gratitude doesn’t mean pretending bad things don’t exist. Rather, you acknowledge those things and recognize that there are positive aspects of your life.
You can use your journal to write down what you’re grateful for, but you can also practice gratitude in other ways: helping others, spending time with friends and family, and being thankful for good things, no matter how small. Gratitude can help you maintain mental balance, so negative thoughts and feelings are less likely to dominate your days.
College can make mindful eating especially challenging. Between classes, homework, and extracurricular activities, it may be hard to schedule mealtimes. Dining halls and restaurants are often distractingly loud. You may frequently eat while watching TV or scrolling through your phone. Eating this way may seem time-effective and fun, but it can be damaging in the long run.
A great alternative is to apply the principles of mindfulness to your meals:
- Eliminate distractions. Turn off the TV and set aside your phone.
- Focus on the experience. Enjoy the smells, appearance, and taste of your food.
- Eat slowly. Take small bites and chew them thoroughly.\
Eating mindfully means being present in the moment, enjoying the meal, and being grateful for the experience.
Most students deal with numerous sources of anxiety and stress: schoolwork, friendships, sports, and new responsibilities. While mindfulness doesn’t necessarily make any of these stressful things go away, it does make them more manageable.
Mindfully planning is a crucial skill for college students. Thinking ahead can help you choose your courses to maximize available study time and minimize scheduling issues. When you concentrate on your interests and career goals, you can pick the right classes each semester. Figuring out your finances gives you time to save up for tuition and textbooks and apply for scholarships.
Move Your Body
Mindfulness isn’t limited to calm breathing and seated meditation. Movement is another essential part of mindful living. There are countless ways to practice mindful movement:
- Take a yoga class.
- Walk outside and intentionally pay attention to nature.
- Practice Tai Chi.
- Try cycling.
While yoga is the type of movement most associated with mindfulness, any physical activity can be mindful if you focus on being present, listening to your body, and paying attention to your breath.
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Enjoy the Benefits of Mindfulness in College and Beyond
Practicing mindfulness can provide several positive effects: lowering your stress, reducing negative emotions, and improving your mental health. These benefits are significant when you’re a college student.
If you’re feeling anxious or emotionally overwhelmed with the new experiences and increased levels of responsibility that are part of college, try practicing mindfulness. Learning how to be mindful in college can set you up for success in your adult life by giving you essential tools to cultivate gratefulness, self-awareness, and internal peace.
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