5 Ways to Practice Mindfulness in College
February 24, 2016
New studies show practicing mindfulness can change your brain and body for the better. So, for college students dealing with one of the most stressful times of your lives—studying for midterms, applying for jobs, and prepping for graduation—here are five ways you can up your end-of-year game and add mindfulness to your everyday.
1. Learn to Meditate
Meditation is perhaps the best possible way to cultivate mindfulness. Practicing quieting your busy mind is an important step towards achieving the clarity necessary to focus on a hard task.
During stressful times of uncertainty, just five minutes of meditation can teach you to stay in the present, take control of your emotions or unhelpful distractions.
2. Crank Up the Tunes
Had a long day? Resist the urge to channel surf and instead unwind with a relaxing playlist. Calming melodies and the soothing sounds of ocean waves, rainfall, and birds chirping can be inspiring, energize us, and lower blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety all at the same time.
When creating a playlist, be careful to choose songs and sounds that calm you. Allow yourself the time to zero in and listen to each instrument, voice, and melody. The key here is to focus on how you feel at the moment rather than dwell on the past or what’s ahead.
3. Remember to Breathe
Concentrating on your breath is one of the oldest forms of practicing mindfulness. Sometimes, the simple act of counting your breaths is all it takes to dial you into the present and keep your mind from running wild.
Next time you find your pulse rate or anxiety on the rise, sit up straight, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Pay attention. How does your body react to each inhale and exhale? After repeating this exercise just 10 times, you’d be surprised how much better you’ll feel.
4. Visualize Your Best You
Famous athletes, high-powered executives, and actors have long used guided visualization as means to calm nerves, curb self-doubt, and prepare for a big game.
In this mindfulness-based exercise, you go through the details of a specific event and imagine the desired outcome you wish to achieve.
Take a make-or-break biology midterm, for example. If you’re someone with testing anxiety, find a quiet place at home and picture your best test day scenario. Spend anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes running it through your head, starting from when you wake up. Go through the ideal morning routine that gets your there on time and the confident feeling you get as you walk into class, take out your pen, breathe, and answer each question correctly.
5. Keep a Journal
Research shows that practicing gratitude can improve overall well-being and foster resilience. So when the stakes are high, the job search is on, and uncertainty lingers, the simple task of taking the time to reflect on who and what you’re grateful for can prove life-changing.
Start small. Choose a journal—spiral notebook, word document, or app—and write down three things you’re grateful for at the end the day. Be honest and specific. Vary your answers and remember: be positive.
As a species, we’re hardwired to hone in on danger and what threatens us to survive. When we redirect our attention to more positive experiences, it can reframe things and allow us to take advantage of opportunities we’d usually miss.