The concept of mindfulness has become extremely popular in the academic sphere after the experiments of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center that led to the creation of various Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programmes specifically aimed at busy students, overworked practitioners, and other people lacking the time and financial means to go to traditional therapists. These practices are also devoid of religious or esoteric connotations traditionally associated with Buddhism, yoga, and meditation practices in general. Hence, they offer prompt stress release to any student willing to experiment with stress relief practices. Below, you will find 5 steps to mindfulness that can be beneficial for you.
Learning Relaxation Response
One of the primary effects of stress on your body is the inability to properly rest during your night sleep. Mindfulness exercises build the so-called relaxation response triggering your parasympathetic nervous system into a sense of safety and recuperation. Usually, it is characterised by the release of the acetylcholine hormone that decreases your blood pressure, optimises your digestion system functioning, and reduces your breathing rate. The best part is that by learning how to achieve these effects through cognitive control you can learn to trigger this relaxation response deliberately in the future. Imagine being able to get into the ‘super-rest’ mode whenever you need to quickly recuperate your energy.
Developing Elevated Awareness
Most MBSR programmes involve some forms of awareness training such as the famous ‘raisin meditation’ exercises. Day after day, they teach you how to become progressively more attentive towards the things you see or feel. This includes both your visual and audial senses and your awareness of your own body states and reactions. From an academic standpoint, you may soon find yourself being able to fully immerse yourself in your learning activities without feeling tense or distracted.
Building Superior Concentration
Another side effect of awareness training and mindfulness is concentration on the present moment. The ideas of ‘avoiding your internal dialogue’ or ‘accepting the present moment’ simply mean that you stop thinking about your past failures, future plans or financial problems during your academic activities. Being able to easily switch between multiple processes can be crucial for ‘getting things done’ and succeeding with other time management strategies.
Using Your Time Wisely
The uniqueness of the mindfulness concept is its deep integration into your daily routines. As opposed to traditional meditation techniques or yoga training, you do not need to travel to a specialised gym or allocate hours of your time to uninterrupted practice. In most cases, your mindfulness sessions will only take 15-20 minutes, which also teaches you an important lesson on the value of short ‘bursts’ of activity. The capability to concentrate and fully utilise even the smallest chunks of time can boost your productivity manifold. This way, you can transform any standstill periods into intensive learning sessions rather than mindlessly wasting these ‘unusable’ pieces of your daily schedule.
Embracing the Chaos
One of the main ideas taught by MBSR instructors is the absence of ‘right’ or ‘correct’ response to programme practices. Some people fall asleep during concentration exercises while others wake up late at night due to some emerging emotional or physical reactions. This reminds us of the chaos of reality where you have to adapt to the lack of predictability rather than expect everything to go in accordance with your plans. In your academic journey, this may be one of the most important lessons you can learn. Do you have a Plan B for the scenario of falling ill right before an important exam? Can you resolve your personal problems while facing the academic challenges of essay writing and dissertation writing? Being mindful means accepting all hardships for what they are and overcoming them with a peaceful mind rather than automatically reacting to them with uncontrollable stress and panic.