Students should practice mindfulness

By Madalyn Watson | Staff Writer

It is a bit of a frantic time of year. Finals, essays and last-minute assignments begin to pile up, and getting through these last weeks of school becomes many students’ main priority.

In order to keep their sanity, students may be driving themselves too hard or using unhealthy ways to cope with their stress.

I believe mindfulness can help everyone, especially college students during a stressful time, focus on being fully present in their life even when they have a lot on their mind.

Throughout my experience with different types of group and talk therapy, mental health professionals were always referring me to the newest trend that would supposedly change my outlook on life.

However, it was not until I joined a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) group where we practiced different forms of mindfulness at the beginning of each session that I found a trend that actually helped me.

DBT focuses on learning skills to help patients manage their emotions and relationships. Some of these skills include mechanisms for coping, getting your point across in a conversation and pushing through when feeling unmotivated.

Mindfulness is being aware and present with yourself and your surroundings without letting them overstimulate or overwhelm you. The goal of mindfulness is to really understand your own mental, emotional and physical sensations and processes.

It is simultaneously the easiest and most difficult thing to do.

I struggled with the concept at first. Mindfulness is commonly associated with meditation, but it’s not the same. Mindfulness can be done anytime, anywhere and with anyone.

There are many ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life from mindfulness eating and reading to mindfully observing the environment around you.

A person can make any everyday action or thought mindful. They should be aware of what is around them and aware of their own body as well as their thoughts. They should slow down their thinking, so when their thoughts are racing, they can notice those thoughts.

One of the simplest mindfulness techniques that I use regularly is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. You inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven and slowly exhale for eight seconds.

Breathing is one of the many things the human body does on auto-pilot. A large aspect of mindfulness is turning your body off of auto-pilot and being aware of every one of your actions, including breathing.

I regularly use this technique when I am anxious or I am lying in bed, trying to calm down my mind before I fall asleep.

An aspect of mindfulness that we focused on in my DBT group was reaching a state of Wise Mind. This state combines the two extreme states of mind: reasonable mind, when a person is ruled by facts, reason and logic; and emotion mind, when a person is ruled by their emotions, feelings and urges to do or say things.

Wise Mind is achieved by seeing the value in both reason and emotion and leads to bringing together the left and right brain to walk a middle path between the two.

One of the most popular ideas for practicing Wise Mind is called a stone flake on a lake. You imagine that you are a clear lake on a beautiful day. The you imagine that you are a small flake of stone, flat and lightly tossed onto the lake that slowly floats to the lake bottom.

In this technique you should focus on noticing what it feels like to slowly drift down to the bottom of the lake and settle your attention on yourself and how you are feeling. Focus on the calmness and serenity of your imagination.