Reducing Stress Through Meditation

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When I used to hear the word “meditation”, I used to imagine a person hovering in the air, cross-legged, chanting the word “OMMM”. Right? Is that what you imagine too? But when I actually started reading about meditation and practicing it, I soon realized it was much more than that. The meditation I practice does not involve chanting words, nor floating in the air. It is called mindfulness meditation. Now, let me explain.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, the forefather of mindfulness meditation, mindfulness can be defined as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”. But what exactly does this mean? Mindfulness is simply allowing yourself to be in the present moment and allowing your thoughts to flow freely without dwelling on them or judging them, while focusing on your breathing or the sensations in your body. As Kabat-Zinn says, “It’s about knowing what is on your mind”.

As depression rates increase worldwide, stress management and reduction are of the utmost importance, especially among university students. We are all here to work hard, earn a degree, and find our place in the world, but we’ll never accomplish these things if we don’t learn how to take care of our physical and mental well-being. Mindfulness Meditation can help with that.

It might seem daunting at first, but there are things you can start doing on a daily basis to bring some calm to the inner storm of your brain that works so hard every day:

  • Mindful Breathing: Take 5 deep breaths, focusing on your body and the sensations you feel, before you get out of bed in the morning. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is at its peak when we wake up in the morning, so doing some mindful breathing can help reduce stress. You can do this at any time – when you feel anxious about an exam, when you’re about to try something you’ve never done before, or when you just need a mental break.
  • Mindful Walking: How many times have you seen someone you know racing up UC Hill? You say, “HI * insert name *” and they completely ignore you. They weren’t even wearing earphones…Umm..RUDE! Don’t be that person! Practice mindful walking and just pay attention to your surroundings. Take it all in! I love taking walks late at night just to have some me-time.
  • Mindful Reflection: Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling, and take some time to understand why you’re feeling a certain way. Did I just get mad at my roommate because of something she did, or because I’m upset about something else? Understanding yourself gives YOU control over your thoughts and your actions, and mindful reflection will also help you understand others better as well.

Just like working out, you have to train your brain “muscles” to be mindful. These 3 steps are just the beginning. It won’t be easy at first and it will take time to develop these habits, but the benefits definitely outweigh the cost:

  • Increased positive moods, for example joy, confidence, happiness, energy
  • Decreased stress-related cortisol (stress hormone)
  • Increased immune response and ability to fight disease
  • Increased blood flow to the brain and the rest of the body

So, why not be mindful?

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