Feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, or overstimulated?
Are you craving space from the daily grind?
Although deadlines and commitments may seem impossible to change, there’s one thing we can add to a busy student routine that can reduce stress and make each day feel more spacious and relaxed. This simple practice is called mindfulness.
Derived primarily from Hindu and Buddhist traditions, mindfulness is based on Zen and Tibetan meditation techniques. The practice involves purposely bringing your attention to the present moment without judgment or analysis. These activities use momentary sense impressions and localised mental focus.
Did you know that since the 1970’s Clinical Psychologists and Psychiatrists have utilised therapeutic mindfulness techniques to support people with a variety of psychological imbalances and disorders? These practices have been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, depression and addiction.
Try these 3 daily routines to create a calmer and more mindful student life:
1. Wake Up Mindfully
How often do you force your eyes open, shut off your alarm and roll out of bed? Do you immediately reach for your phone and start scrolling? I know I do. How often do you notice your first breath or perhaps, the way your body is feeling?
Beginning your day with awareness and specific intentions has been proven to improve mood and productivity. Explore these techniques to ensure proactive decision-making, instead of unconscious reactions from auto-pilot mode.
- Upon waking, before you get out of bed, take 3 deep breaths: Inhale for a count of three through your nose (if possible) and imagine the air in your lungs travelling downwards to fill up your lower abdomen. Gently exhale through your nose or mouth for a count of 5 (or longer if possible). Repeat three times. Notice how you feel?
- Following the breaths, take a minute to notice body sensations: Follow a simple body scan by drawing your awareness to different body parts for approximately five seconds, then move on to the next. For example, begin by noticing the muscles around your eyes, as well as your jaw and your mouth. Next, pay attention to how your neck and shoulders are feeling. Continue to move down your body. You don’t need to explore every body part, even just a few will make a difference. Does your body feel hot, cool, stiff, relaxed, tired or energised? Ask yourself, what does my body need today? See if an answer naturally arises.
- Set an intention for your day: Now that you have some awareness of your body, next ask yourself, how is my mind? Do you feel calm or anxious? Was your mind busy throughout the night or did you sleep like a log? What was the first thing you woke up thinking about? Are you worried about anything? No need to change anything, just notice how your mind feels as you begin your day.
Next, ask yourself how you would like today to go? What would you like to do, or not do? How would you like to feel when returning home tonight?
Throughout your day be sure to check in with your intention and how you’re feeling at that point. Start with a slow breath and notice how a simple intention can begin to change your relationship with yourself and the world around you.
2. Listen Mindfully
Becoming aware of your environment is an important skill within mindfulness practices as it sets you up for heightened self-awareness and improved communication skills.
It’s no secret that every person feels best when they are heard and acknowledged. By developing mindful listening, you will become more aware of your general surroundings which strengthens your intuition and helps you to become a better listener.
How to practise?
Begin in stillness. Find a comfortable seat anywhere you like and close your eyes.
- Notice your heartbeat. Are you able to hear it?
- Notice your breath. Take a long, slow breath.
- Follow your awareness to your inner ears. Imagine the very inside of your ear canal. What do you hear?
- Notice your outer ears. What do you hear now?
- Begin to slowly expand your awareness to a comfortable distance away from your body. Simply allow sounds to be there. No need to attribute meaning to them, just observe them.
- What do you hear now? Perhaps a dog is barking, or a car beeping its horn. Maybe you can hear the rustling of leaves in the trees or someone shouting off in the distance.
- Allow yourself to observe sounds as they pass through your ears for a few minutes.
- When you feel complete, draw your awareness back inside your ear canal, towards your breath, finishing at your heartbeat once again.
How was this exercise for you? Did you observe anything unexpected? What sounds are present inside of your body? The more you practise, the more precise your listening skills will become.
Listen daily whenever possible. Anytime is the perfect time.
As your skills develop, begin practising when in conversation. Notice how your body feels as you listen. Are you able to fully listen to another without being distracted by your own thoughts? This practice is called generous listening – It creates the most effective and respectful communication.
3. Notice your 5 Senses:
This practice can be applied to most situations in life. It’s one of the simplest mindfulness techniques available.
All you need is to notice something you are experiencing with any of your 5 senses.
Try some of these:
- What are 3 things that you can see right now? Choose something that you may not normally have noticed and spend a moment observing it. Does it have colour, texture, etc.
- What are 3 things that you can feel right now? How does your clothing feel on your skin? What is the temperature in the room, or in your surrounding environment?
- What are 3 things you can smell right now? Imagine you are a dog, with a heightened sense of smell. What do you notice as you walk around your neighbourhood? No analysis is necessary, just witness them.
- What are 3 things you can hear right now? Expedite the above listening practice and take a moment to notice what you hear in your immediate surroundings. Observe the quieter sounds, like the humming of your fridge and the more obvious, loud ones, like a siren.
- What are 3 things you taste right now? This can be done anytime but is best applied with a meal. Take a moment to slow down your eating habits and notice the subtle flavours in your food. Allow more time to chew and drink. Perhaps even a sip of air contains a taste?
As you begin to apply even a few of these practices, you will naturally feel like life is moving at a slower pace, improving your mental health and ability to cope within a busy life schedule.