Opinions, Column

Why Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness classes have finally made their way to Boston College’s campus, and all students need to be practicing these techniques. Seniors are stressed about securing job positions and moving away from their friends and family. Underclassmen are worried about finding internships for the summer. Everyone wants to do well on final projects, papers, and exams, while still having fun social lives. Balancing all these responsibilities and activities can be overwhelming. The best way to cope with all the craziness? Mindfulness.

The practice of mindfulness stems from meditation. These two methods are similar, but mindfulness involves learning to get out of our heads, while meditation exercises strengthen the brain muscles to help us do so. The goal of mindfulness is to be truly present in current situations, something college students can especially benefit from. Students are always on their phones and laptops, making it hard to connect with others and pay attention to surroundings. Mindfulness can help students be more present and focused in class, job interviews, and while working on assignments.

Elizabeth Cronin of Brookline, Mass. teaches a course on mindfulness and offers a different lesson each week.  Her lessons include mindful eating, mindful listening, body scans, and breathing exercises. Most mindfulness classes follow similar lessons so participants can all reach their desired goals.

You might think college students are so busy that they don’t have time to improve their listening skills, eating habits, and breathing. But a lack of time makes mindfulness an even more important skill. College students are ideal candidates for these classes because they’ve reached an advanced maturity level, allowing them to appreciate alternative ways of thinking. They’ve left their family homes on their own and must learn to cope with their problems and succeed.

College freshmen come into school to find new friends, professors, dining halls, and assignments. Many students adapt well to the changes, but challenges arise throughout the four years of college, showing that all grade levels should be practicing mindfulness. Mindful eating helps participants focus on what they’re eating and notice when they’re full. This a great tool for college students who often eat on the go, in dining halls, and in restaurants that are full of distractions. This mindfulness practice helps students maintain a healthy weight and enjoy their food more.

Mindful listening teaches participants to focus on their conversations and the people with whom they’re speaking. This technique would help college students during interviews, when they need to be attentive to their interviewers. Classes, lectures, and everyday conversations also provide perfect opportunities to use this technique and practice holding better attention. Breathing exercises, another lesson in mindfulness, help practitioners relax and feel in control of their bodies, something over-stressed college students could definitely benefit from. These methods are all intertwined, making them even more vital. For example, healthy eating leads to less stress and better focus. Mindfulness helps create well-rounded people.

The benefits of mindfulness include decreased stress, stronger focus, better productivity, and an increased ability to be present, making it one of the best psychological practices for a college student. It’s therapeutic and helps students accept their current worries. For example, if their thoughts start wandering to job applications during class, it’s important to bring the thoughts back to the current activity, in order to maintain focus and perform well. Mindfulness means learning how to seriously pay attention to what’s happening in the moment. If any distractions arise, it’s important to come back to the present without feeling angry for straying. College students feel immense pressure to succeed and to do it quickly. Learning how to understand and accept these feelings leads to greater relaxation through mindfulness.

Mindfulness takes practice and positivity, but the results are worth it. There are constant interruptions in life. The goal of mindfulness, however, is not to stop being distracted but to learn how to gently and efficiently bring thoughts back to the present, an important skill for college students, and for everyone.

Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Archives

March 30, 2016