In times of discomfort, bring yourself back to to the present by practicing mindfulness.

In our Introduction to Mindfulness article, we talked about what mindfulness is, how to practice it, and what its benefits are. As students who are constantly trying to juggle school, work, and a social life, mental health is often neglected. It’s important to understand why we feel the way we do, and what can be done about it so we can enhance the quality of our work, relationships, and experiences.

In this article, we’re going to focus on mindfulness techniques that require virtually nothing. These techniques will challenge you to stay present in the now by using focused breathing, awareness of bodily sensations, and emotions as well as external senses (what you see, hear, smell, taste and touch).

Man meditates in front of a sunset

What you’ll need to do before you start:

  • Set positive intentions: If you come into meditation expecting to immediately ‘feel better’ you’ll probably be disappointed. Since mindfulness is an on-going effort that takes dedication and patience,  the full effects will only be seen after continuous practice. By setting intentions, you will be able to focus on a goal and remind yourself to stay consistent regardless of feeling immediate gratification or not.
  • Be ready with an open and gentle attitude: There’s no avoiding the fact that your mind will wonder when you meditate. But criticizing yourself will only make you feel bad and want to give-up. Be gentle with yourself; treat yourself the same way you’d treat a friend who’s going through a rough time.
  • Find a quiet space: Mindfulness involves meditation, and meditation works best when you’re in an environment with as little distractions as possible.
  • Set a timer: Try to stick to meditating for at least 10 minutes a day. The morning is a great time to meditate as it will set the tone for the rest of your day. Or, if you find your thoughts racing at night, choose that time to practice.

Basic mindfulness exercise:

This exercise is all about bringing attention to your mind and body by merging them as one.

  1. Start off by sitting down on a chair or cross legged on the ground. If you’d like, you can listen to meditation playlists on Spotify or iTunes to help guide you.
  2. Close your eyes, and begin breathing deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth while counting your “in” breaths.
  3. Focus on your breath, and notice where you feel it most deeply (in your abdomen or chest maybe).
  4. When thoughts pop up, gently let them go. Don’t worry if your mind begins to wonder, just try to reign it back in by focusing on your breathing.
  5. After a few moments of breathing deeply, begin to open up to your surroundings. Be aware of what’s happening around you but don’t force yourself to listen, see, touch or taste. Let them come to you.
  6. Continue doing this until you feel comfortable stopping (or if your alarm goes off).

The HeadSpace app is also a great place to start if you feel like you need some further guidance. They have 10 minute guided meditations and animations that explain easy concepts and exercises.

Silhouette of a girl cupping sunset

What the benefits are:

  • Calm your body by releasing tension in your muscles
  • Learn to focus on the present, and be able to let things from the past go
  • Understand your negative thoughts and emotions
  • Eventually be able to process stress better, and improve school work by not getting overwhelmed

The stress of being a student can often be overwhelming, but practicing mindfulness will help you to take control of the thoughts and emotions that inhibit you, so you can live your best life!

Have any thoughts on how we can improve mental health services? We want to hear about your student experience! Tell us about what stresses you, what makes you happy, what you want to see more of around campus on Facebook.