Practice being present so that you can better focus, overcome negative thoughts, and develop your sense of purpose.By Elizabeth Catanese & Kate Sanchez
Mindfulness Exercise #1: Gratitude
When things get tough, stay positive by remembering what you are thankful for in your life. In this exercise, Elizabeth walks you through a simple gratitude exercise that you can do every day.3 mins
Mindfulness Exercise #2: Cultivating Focus
Get the most out of class, studying, and homework by integrating Kate's simple strategies to cultivate your focus. It will help save you time and energy while creating higher quality work.2 mins
Mindfulness Exercise #3: Deep Breathing
Whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, bringing yourself back to the present moment can be as simple as taking a few intentional, deep breaths. In this video, Kate guides you through a mindful breathing exercise.3 mins
What is mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, who started the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (1994). People practice mindfulness in many different ways (meditation, walking, coloring, eating), but what connects them is this intentional embrace of whatever is happening now.
Mindfulness brings awareness to the volume of the thoughts swirling in your head, or in the world around you, so you can really connect to the moment in front of you.Mindfulness practices have existed for thousands of years all over the world and are now being used in education to help students thrive.
How to start a practice
If you want to reap the benefits of a mindfulness practice, start by trying some different activities, searching for the one that connects most to you personally. For instance, you might enjoy coloring, while others find it frustrating. Others may enjoy a sitting meditation, while you might benefit from a walking one. After you find a mindfulness exercise that works for you, plan to do it regularly, but start small. You might begin by writing three things you are grateful for in your journal each morning, or you might meditate for five minutes before bed each night. Making it a part of your daily routine can help you remember to do it. Keep in mind, this is a practice, and you cannot do it “wrong.” Stay open to learning as a part of the process and have fun!
Benefits of mindfulness
When you practice mindfulness, you find ways to be aware of your experiences. It may sound simple, but it’s harder than it seems! Have you ever read a page from a textbook and then not remembered anything you read? In this case, practicing mindfulness might have led to greater focus or even a realization that you needed to take a nap before studying. Also, when you increase your awareness and notice more stress and anxiety inside you, this can remind you to do a meditation or a creative activity to re-center.
Mindfulness has all kind of health benefits too. For some, it has reduced anxiety and depression. For others it has helped with chronic health conditions like migraines and high blood pressure.
Studies have shown that mindfulness practice can lead to greater persistence and success in education as well.
It’s easy to try to block out experiences, especially negative ones, but in the long run, mindfulness practice can help you become a more engaged participant in your own life and a much better friend to yourself.
Elizabeth Catanese is an Assistant Professor of English at Community College of Philadelphia. Trained in mindfulness-based stress reduction, Elizabeth has enjoyed incorporating mindfulness activities into her college classroom for over ten years. Elizabeth works to deepen her mindful awareness through writing children's books, cartooning and parenting her energetic twin toddlers, Dylan and Escher.
Kate Sanchez is an Assistant Professor of English at Community College of Philadelphia where she enjoys finding creative ways to incorporate mindfulness into her curriculum. Inspired by her own journey, she created the Vitamin.k.mindful YouTube channel to share mindful living strategies with others. Every night before bed, she does a metta “lovingkindness” meditation with her toddler daughter.