Get to know the ancient, modern, scientifically supported practice of Mindfulness
By: Kate Griffin
Whether you are a monk, a US Marine, or a college student, mindfulness can help you achieve a greater state of calm.
Have you heard of mindfulness practice? Of course you have – it’s 2019. You’ve probably seen it on social media, in iPhone apps, and even here at Elon! For most people, sitting and focusing on nothing is a waste of time, but there’s more than meets the eye. It can actually help alleviate depression, and anxiety, as well as chronic pain.
Does mindfulness really help? One study published in 2010, showed that just 12 minutes of mindfulness practice every day for 8 weeks helped marines maintain stables moods and the ability to focus before they were deployed, compared to a control group that did not receive this training. The results indicated an upward trend between time practicing mindfulness and one’s ability to regulate their thoughts.
If the mental health of marines benefited from mindfulness practice during such a high-stress time, this gives some insight into just how valuable this practice can be. But as college students, dealing with college stress, it can be hard to find a chunk of your day to devote towards mindfulness.
Recognized Elon faculty member Resa Walch disagrees.
Walch says mindfulness is more of a lifestyle, in which you’re better equipped for managing stress. In fact there are tons of little things you can do, such as mindful eating or deep breathing, to incorporate throughout the day.
Throughout the years professor Walch found that, “students said their favorite classes were the ones that started with a mindfulness activity.”
Recent literature, focused solely on college students, uncovered some of the lasting effects of mindfulness intervention strategies. Educational Research Review reports that, “78% of [the reported 57] studies showed significant decreases in stress,” and “100% showed decreases in anxiety.” This may explain why Walch’s students liked these classes more.
Continuation of mindfulness practice has also been used as an intervention method for addictive behavior and chronic pain. Based on research published in 2019, “Minfulness-Orientated Recovery Enhancement significantly decreases chronic pain, craving and opioid abuse behaviors.”
Mindfulness is a state in which your full attention is focused on the present moment. In my experience, it is mentally being where you physically are and simply noticing your emotional thoughts.
Although mindfulness may seem like a recent fad, the practice dates back thousands of years in eastern cultures. Buddhism would use it as the solution to human suffering.
However, nowadays we are suffering from stress. It’s more challenging than ever to be in the present moment when our attention is being pulled in several different directions half the time. Scientific American stated in 2013 that this mental pattern, “is tied to negative mood. Chronic psychological stress, suffered by millions, may be built on a mind consumed by rumination, worry or fear about many topics. This type of diffused and unstable focus impairs performance, too.”
Meditation is a great way to combat the distracted mind. Joel Harter, the Director of the Truitt Center, described a wealth of resources available here at Elon. Yoga and meditation are held every week in the Numen Lumen Pavilion, as well as religious services welcome to people of all faiths.
Since partnering with the Health and Wellness Center, the Truitt Center also offers periodic mindfulness workshops and retreats!
If you are someone who prefers to meditate alone, there are apps for that. Calm.com and Headspace have started becoming quite popular. They give you access to sleep meditations, visual meditations, music and much more at the tip of your fingers. Even celebrities like LeBron James and John Mayer praise calm.com.
Focused attention is crucial for higher cognitive functioning. In fact, neuroscientist David Richardsonn states that “our ability to focus and avoid mind-wandering” is one of four brain circuits that work together to create lasting well-being.
“So, when you find yourself caught up in this speedy and complex society, try and slow down for a minute. Mindfulness might just be the antidote to that,” says Margaret Horton, says Margaret Horton in her 2019 article.
Bamber, M. D., & Schneider, J. K. (2015, December 23). Mindfulness-based meditation to decrease stress and anxiety in college students: A narrative synthesis of the research. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1747938X15000676.
Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. (2010, February). Retrieved December 11, 2019, from https://psycnet.apa.org/buy/2010-01983-011.Garland, E. L., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2019, January 14).
Positive psychological states in the arc from mindfulness to self-transcendence: extensions of the Mindfulness-to-Meaning Theory and applications to addiction and chronic pain treatment. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352250X18302136.