The impacts of practicing mindfulness
By: Rachel Kushnier, Contributor
As you take a deep breath in, you smell the crisp autumn air. The warm sun beats down on your face as a cool breeze shivers across your cheek. If you close your eyes for a moment, you can hear the sound of leaves falling from the trees and rustling in the wind and perhaps even the melody of singing birds. Looking around, your eyes are flooded with flights of crimson, orange, and yellow leaves waiting to make their fall decent.
In an ideal situation perhaps, an individual can experience and notice all of these things at once. The reality is, these occasions are few and far between. A more accurate depiction may have included the sound of honking horns, text tones, or screaming students walking into residence as you’re trying to study. Perhaps the only visual stimuli available to you consist of the three walls of your incredibly tiny cubicle on the third floor of the library and your computer screen. The aromas that fill the air may involve the week-old dinner forgotten in the back of the fridge or stale coffee.
Or more likely yet, perhaps none of these senses are even recognizable, as the only thing you find yourself contemplating is how you are going to scrape together enough money to pay next month’s rent. Maybe you just spent the last of your OSAP on $900.00 worth of text books and have no way of buying groceries for the rest of the semester, or maybe you just can’t seem to remember any of the study material for your midterm tomorrow.
The plain truth is, we often forget to push pause on the hectic hustle and bustle that comes with every day life. Whether it is recognizing the way the concrete feels against your sneakers during your walk home or taking the time to notice the view from the library window, we as humans tend to overlook simplicity.
Mindfulness is the act of bringing conscious, purposeful awareness to what is happening in the present moment, without trying to change it or wish it were different. It is a way of observing what is happening both externally and internally in a non-judgemental way. When we fail to bring conscious awareness to what is going on around us, we end up relying on our autopilot—going through the motions of life, never aware of what is truly happening in each moment. Whether it be exams, midterm projects, sleep, social life, finances, or overall well being, it becomes very easy for at least one area of our life to suffer. More often than not, we find ourselves sacrificing the quality of our mental health.
Mindfulness is a great exercise to ground yourself in the seemingly chaotic whirlwind that is being a student. I am not trying to preach some philosophical revelation that is going to change your life, nor am I asking you to become a walking rainbow of positivity – I am merely suggesting that you observe what is going on around you. The ability to consciously ground yourself in what is happening right here and now means accepting things as they are. Let the bad and good thoughts come and pass. Give yourself permission to enjoy the pleasant without holding on when it passes, as it inevitably will. Be okay with the unpleasant, without fearing that it will always be that way—because it won’t.
A simple mindfulness exercise that can be practiced anywhere at anytime is to focus on your breath. Notice each in breath and each out breath you take. Pay attention to the rise and fall of your chest. During this exercise your mind may wander; this is perfectly normal. Take a moment to acknowledge where your mind has gone to and then bring it back to the focus of your breath. Mindfulness is not about trying to clear the mind or eliminate thoughts and feelings. It is meant to bring cognizant awareness to the patterns of the mind and experiences as they unfold moment-by-moment, breath-by-breath.