Most of us spend our days on ‘automatic pilot’, not noticing our thoughts, feelings or bodily sensations. This can be especially true for students as they face frequent deadlines, decisions about courses and majors, or relationship issues. Noticing what you are experiencing can be especially helpful if you have a mental health disorder.
Being Mindful of Everyday Activities. Being aware or “mindful” allows you to focus on the events of the moment, and on caring for yourself now, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating what might happen in the future. One expert in this discipline, Jon Kabat-Zinn, defines mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose in a certain way without judgment.” As a student, your life and your mind are often so busy that you forget to take notice of the everyday occurrences that keep your senses ‘awake.’ Rather than allowing yourself to miss the moment, pause, take a breath and notice what you are experiencing. Your experiences may be pleasant and worth savoring. But even if they are unpleasant, you will be better able to cope if you face your experiences directly and strive to live “in the moment.”
How it Works
Talk students through the following steps. While many experts recommend practicing this technique for 30 minutes a day to become comfortable with it, try devoting just five or ten minutes of class time to introducing the technique, and suggest that students continue to practice it on their own, gradually increasing the time spent.
- Find a comfortable position.
- While focusing on your breathing, allow your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations to flow over you, entering and leaving your awareness at their own pace. Recognize each sensation, but then let it fade away, allowing the next thought or feeling to enter your mind. Continue to acknowledge each sensation, then let it go.
- You will likely find that your mind is very busy with thoughts about all kinds of things – some pleasant, some unpleasant. Each time you notice that your mind has wandered, gently and without judgment shift your awareness back to your breath.
- Remember that the goal of mindfulness meditation is not to change your thoughts in any way, but simply to notice them and then, as best you can, continuously return to your breath.
- Keep it simple. Be patient and kind with yourself. Do not expect that you will be able to “empty” your mind of thoughts and enter a state of deep relaxation. The point of mindfulness meditation is to simply and compassionately begin to notice your thoughts, and then let them go.
With practice, mindfulness and other meditative practices can allow you to develop clarity in your thoughts and feelings, decrease your negative thoughts, and promote a sense of peacefulness and centeredness.