Mindfulness proves effective for students

ELIZABETH FOSTER

Mindfulness has been a hot topic in the media in recent years, but despite the impression social media influencers and the burgeoning adult colouring book industry may have created, the practice is far from new.

Mindfulness and meditation Simon Rae Unsplash

Mindfulness techniques are an important part of practices such as yoga and meditation and can help calm, relax and focus the mind. Photo: Courtesy Simon Rae/Unsplash

 

In fact, mindfulness originated from ancient Buddhist teachings and has been practiced in South East Asia for thousands of years.

Best described as the act of living in the now and being present and engaged in whatever you are doing, there are many different mindfulness techniques, though most centre on practices such as meditation and yoga.

Griffith University psychology professor Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck has examined mindfulness in her research and believes students can greatly benefit from its practice.

“You can sort of think of mindfulness as a useful strategy for one, helping to disconnect from highly negative emotional reactions to stressful events, two, stopping excessive worrying via focusing on today rather than worrying about tomorrow, and three, to help with relaxation,” Professor Zimmer-Gembeck said.

She said she believed the low cost of these strategies was partially why they had become so popular, with a multitude of free online resources now providing guided meditation sessions.

“I think a few issues have really escalated its popularity,” Professor Zimmer-Gembeck said.

“For starters, the evidence that training mindfulness can be associated with improved emotional health, along with the increasing attention to mind-body connections from neuropsychological research and psychophysiology research,” she said.

Meditation Unsplash

Mindfulness and meditation can be good for the tech native Gen Z, encouraging them to “turn off” for a while. Photo: Courtesy Madison Lavern/Unsplash

 

Although sitting in silence probably sounds horrifying to some, meditation is becoming popular with the tech native Gen Z, with some feeling as though a small amount of silence can do a whole lot of good.

A 2013 study by the Centre for Regenerative Therapies in Dresden, Germany, titled “Is silence golden?” found two hours of silence a day could create new cells in the learning centre of the brain.

Griffith University journalism lecturer Professor Mark Pearson considers mindfulness an important part of his life, personally practicing meditation for five to 20 minutes every day.

Professor Pearson has even gone a step further, introducing the concept to students in his media law classes.

“I started building some mindfulness exercises into my classes about two years ago, beginning with the guided reflections [provided] by the university’s counsellors,” he said.

“I think mindfulness techniques have found favour because research has shown some benefits for mental health, resilience and cognition.”

“The mental health of students has become a much higher priority, and this is just one strategy to assist there.”

Headspace app

Headspace has released an app specifically for guided meditation and mindfulness, which is designed to help with good mental health. Photo: Elizabeth Foster

 

Like many students, 21-year-old Griffith University nutrition student Sienna Shoemark is busy juggling studying with working to pay the bills.

Ms Shoemark said she felt as though mindfulness techniques helped her to stay on top of her workload.

“Sometimes I journal, but it all depends on my mind state,” she said.

“I tend to do those things until I feel on top of the world.”

“However, I also believe that mindfulness is a mindset, it’s being able to watch the thoughts float past in your head and not becoming attached to them.”

“My mind is clearer, I’m less reactive in stressful situations and I can hold my ground, [and] I’m more grateful for everything in my life, so much more that I can’t even put into words.”

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