OPINION: Meditation sharpens minds

Illustration by Han Tran

Meditation is an ancient practice that has been used for thousands of years. Meditation has positive cognitive, emotional, physical and social benefits. It can be done in the traditional way, sitting upright with legs crossed, or in a non-traditional way, such as walking. With busy schedules, it can be hard to set aside time to think about nothing, but even a two-minute walk across campus can calm your mind and help you focus.

Mindful Meditation

According to an April 3, 2013 New York Times article titled, “How Meditation Might Boost Your Test Scores,” mindful meditation is “the ancient and flourishing practice that increases awareness of random thoughts and redirects attention to the present moment.” It involves focusing on the present moment, including your thoughts, feelings and actions without attaching judgment to them.

Mindful meditation can be very beneficial to college students. It has shown to treat anxiety, depression and binge eating disorder. It can also improve mind-wandering tendencies while performing a task, according to a Brown University health promotion article titled, “Mindfulness.”

According to an April 17, 2015 Upworthy article titled, “Meditation can be done by anyone just about anywhere in as little as two minutes a day,” those who meditate will become more in control of how their emotions affect their actions, even intensely negatives one.

According to the New York Times article, the University of California, Santa Barbara, did a mindful meditation study on 48 undergraduates. Half the group did a mindfulness-based stress reduction program that met four days a week for two weeks. The students who participated in the meditation program saw an increase in GRE, graduate school entry exam test scores, while the students not in the meditation program saw no improvement. The mindful meditation practices helped students focus during the test by decreasing mind-wandering.

Because mindful meditation focuses on feelings and actions, it can be done in a non-traditional method. It can be as simple as noticing the concrete as you walk across campus and how your body feels while walking. When random thoughts enter your head while walking, push them away and refocus on the walk.

How to Start

The longer and more frequent the meditation session, the better the benefits are. College students, however, don’t have a lot of time to think about breathing and shut everything out when they have tests and work to worry about.

Meditation can be done in as little as two minutes, and there are apps available to help. Apps like “Stop, Breathe and Think” have timers and soft music to help you focus and breathe. There is a meditation alcove on south side of the fourth floor in Hale Library that provides a quiet and reflective space that is available to all students. There are also Noontime Yoga classes offered in Ahearn gymnasium Monday-Friday.

Meditation has powerful effects. Being aware of your mind and body can help reduce stress and anxiety. Meditation can be done anywhere, and it does not have to take a long time. College students are under a lot of stress during finals week, and meditation can help us focus.