What is Mindfulness?
We’ve all heard the term “mindfulness” before, but what exactly does it entail? I define mindfulness as a headspace of awareness and acceptance you can practice in order to feel more at ease with your internal and external environment. Someone who is mindful may be more in tune with the world around them and how they respond to positive and negative stimuli. Adopting mindfulness is the best piece of advice I can give to any prospective college student. When exam season comes around, when responsibilities overwhelm you, when relationships turn, the only constant factor in these situations is your mind. Preparing a mental toolkit with virtues such as patience, empathy, and forgiveness will serve you well during these stress-inducing events. To start, all you need is an open mind and a spare moment of your time.
How Can Mindfulness Help?
In a Harvard Medical School study, it has been found that adopting mindfulness can greatly reduce stress, cystic acne, risk of heart disease, poor sleep cycles, high blood pressure, and gastrointestinal complications. In college, stressors may seem endlessly abundant and it can be incredibly difficult to hide from them. Stress puts your body into an archaic flight-or-fight response (even though you’re worried about making a deadline rather than escaping a predator). When your body is in this state, your immune response is put on hold, as are other important systems, which can be damaging long term. If you do not give yourself a break to reset, you’ll be pushing a faster heart rate, encouraging a flood of stress hormones, and preventing your body from healing itself or digesting properly. If your health is the number one priority, as it should be, you MUST prioritize mindfulness. Just like brushing your teeth, washing your hair, taking care of your headspace is crucial for long term health and happiness.
How Can I Practice Mindfulness?
To preface this discussion, you don’t need any sort of formal training or to sign up for a yoga membership or even a Tibetan Sound Healing session in order to practice mindful action. While all of these things may help individuals deepen their relationship with themselves, it is not necessary. Mindfulness can take many forms: meditation, creativity sessions, rest, movement, etc., and not everyone’s practice looks the same! It’s about finding some activity where you are free to let thoughts flow past without assigning judgment to them. For me, cooking a healthy meal can be a really great way to decompress and take care of my mind and body!
Students at the University of Michigan can find an endless array of wellness related services to enjoy! In MRADS, we host multiple workshops for students to better learn about themselves and each other. In the fall, Mosher-Jordan Hall Resident Advisors usually host a Yoga in the Arb retreat and throughout the school year, MRADS and WISERP team up to host “Community Conversations,” where students can discuss their thoughts and feelings on various topics such as impostor syndrome, their journey to Michigan, and how they’re truly doing. As a first year MRADS student, you are also assigned a second year Peer Mentor (like myself) who checks in with you on a regular basis to make sure you are getting everything you need. You’re never far from a listening ear here!
Outside of MRADS, a guided meditation (on YouTube, the Headspace App, etc.) may be really insightful for beginners learning where to focus their attention. Additionally, UofM’s Student Life hosts several guided meditation sessions each week and there are many clubs on campus that focus on meditation/ yoga/ mindful action (such as Mindful Michigan)!
Practicing mindfulness is for everyone! Your practice should cater to your needs and goals. If it makes you feel secure and happy, it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else. When you take time for yourself, you will be better equipped for when you need to show up for others. What you practice can be taken into the “real world” to promote love, kindness, and empathy, which this world is in DESPERATE need of. College WILL be difficult at times, but wonderful all around! We have your back through thick and thin, and there is always an opportunity to practice when you’re here with us. Go out, take care, and (in the words of the MRADS Assistant Director) live well!