“Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters you.” – Rumi

Mental health used to be a taboo topic discussed only behind closed doors without much understanding or support from family, friends, or even health care professionals. Now, with more people speaking up about their struggles with mental health, it’s becoming easier for others to do the same.

Stress, depression, anxiety, and fears of missing out are common among college and university students. Often, these feelings come from being overwhelmed by school work, worrying too much about the future, and even social media.

There are certain things that are out of our control, but mindfulness can help us learn to take a step back, focus on things we can control, and bring some calm into our hectic lives.

What is mindfulness:

Mindful.org describes mindfulness as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

In a nutshell, mindfulness is about using techniques like meditation to stay present in the current moment, accept negative feelings, and learn to focus your energy on coming up with solutions to fixable problems.

Girl looks out into the distance during sunset

How to practice mindfulness:

Have you ever picked up a hobby or interest and became a pro at it right away? Probably not – it took time for you to cultivate your skills and progress your work. The same thing can be said of mindfulness.

At first, it might feel like a waste of time, you might have “more important things to do” like study for a test or write an essay. You might also be tempted to give up – and that’s okay. Our minds naturally wonder and turn towards the incessant tasks we have throughout the day. It takes practice to see the true effects of mindfulness, and so what matters is that you try again whenever you can.

My personal path to mindfulness started by reading several books on the subject matter. Having written sources to refer to whenever I forget techniques and concepts really helps reinforce them in my mind.

Here are some of my favourites:

Next week, we’ll be publishing an article detailing ways to actually practice mindfulness so stay tuned!

Man and woman meditating while sitting on rocks

Benefits of Mindfulness:

As students, we often feel like we have no time to sit and do “nothing”.  I personally can’t think of a time before I started practising mindfulness, where I ever thought to myself “Hey slow down, take a seat, and just be present!” With essays to write, tests to study for, and other obligations no one wants to waste time doing “nothing”.

But mindfulness isn’t a waste of time, it actually has the ability to change the way your brain works through neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity argues that our brains are adaptable and able to change throughout our lives. The brain creates thought patterns that become our habits. This explains why we might feel a certain emotion when we hear our favourite song or smell our favourite food. These thought patterns can also strengthen negative thoughts, like when we automatically lead to the “I’m not good enough” excuse when trying something new. Mindfulness helps us create new habits that lead to long-term solutions so you can live your life to the fullest.

A happy group of 4 people sitting together

The hardest and probably most important aspect of mindfulness is learning to accept and understand your negative thoughts and feelings. As difficult as it may be, once we look inwards and try to understand our thoughts, emotions, and feelings we can start on a path towards life-long healing.

Talking to someone can also help you if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed. Humber’s Counselling Service and Good2Talk are two free sources for students to use.

Stay tuned for next week’s article on different mindfulness activities! For now, take care of yourselves and remember to just be.