The 2021-2022 school year has begun. Whether you became an 8th grader, a high school senior, or an incoming college freshman, we all feel the same at some point — nervous, if not stressed out. It might be because it’s your first year in a new school or because you took rigorous courses this year. Then what can we do to relieve our stress and maintain a healthy mindset throughout the school year?
This was a trick that I learned on the first day of my AP Psychology class. It’s “mindfulness” — a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique, according to Oxford Languages. Simply put, it’s being aware of yourself, knowing that your mind has control over everything you do. It’s the opposite of multitasking and rushing through all of your homework on a Sunday night; it’s rather relaxing and paying full attention to the one task you are doing.
Why is mindfulness so important?
First of all, it reduces rumination. In a 2008 study published in the Cognitive Therapy and Research journal, a non clinical group of 20 meditators were tested on their performance before and after the participation in a 10-day intensive mindfulness meditation retreat. Throughout the research process, participants self-reported their execution of tasks assessing working memory, sustained attention, and attention switching. As a result, researchers concluded that those who practiced mindfulness training displayed lower depressive symptoms, ruminations, and higher measures of working memory and sustained attention compared to a group without any meditation training. As such, the continuous practice of mindfulness allow more positive thoughts and eliminates unnecessary emotions.
Moreover, it helps create cognitive flexibility. For example, according to empirical evidence, practicing mindfulness through meditations helps control a part of our brain that manages the reaction to stress. The control of this area ultimately leads to a faster recovery after being put in a negative and stressful situation.
Further studies conclude that mindfulness enhances self-insight, righteousness, intuition, and fear restraint — all functions associated with the brain’s middle prefrontal lobe region. It also improves test performance speed and relates to a healthier immune functioning.
Now that the benefits are clear, how can students practice mindfulness on a daily basis?
The answer is simple, you can first start by eating with awareness. Consuming food is the most common activity that everyone performs as soon as they wake up. By focusing on the experience of eating as you turn off distractions such as the TV playing in front and eat slowly, taste buds are more activated and it also aids in better digestion. Afterall, you would even be able to better enjoy this activity.
Another way is by doing one thing at a time. With copious amounts of assignments on your to-do list, this might feel hard. It might even be common for you to be doing your math homework as you watch a YouTube video explaining the language in the “Odyssey.” However, by taking a deep breath and concentrating on one work at a time, you would be able to understand the material better but also complete an assignment at a faster rate.
Finally, try “urge surfing.” In other words, it’s acknowledging your sudden impulse, urge, or cravings instead of rejecting or following it. By “observing” the thought and letting the sudden drive float away as time flows, it can liberate you from compulsive or irrational behaviors.
Like an old saying by Buddha, “what you think, you become”, mindfulness can help you turn your dreams or goals into reality.