Sit Down, Be Mindful

by Nicole Wilkes

Photography courtesy of Layth Hert

College is a notoriously high-stress environment. The pressures of rigorous academics, extracurricular activities and the impending release into the “real world,” combined with the fast pace of urban Boston can be enough to make any BU student feel unsettled. There are, however, practices that students can employ to deal with stress and increase mindfulness. Some require more time than others, but all can be fit into even the busiest student’s daily routine.

Journal daily

Daily journaling forces you to really explore how you’re feeling in order to translate it to paper. When writing, consider what might be bothering you. Focusing on these stressors and writing them down on paper can lessen the intensity and their effect on your well-being. Be sure to also take the time to write what you’re grateful for and what your long and short-term goals are.

Practice mindful meditation

It’s not just for monks and hippies. Millennials are turning to mindful meditation to relieve stress and cope with various anxieties, and for good reason. The practice helps people of all ages deal with emotional stress as well as physical ailments, such as asthma and tension headaches. Mindful meditation forces you to actively focus on yourself emotionally and physically.

Breathe

If you don’t have time for a full meditation, a few focused, deep breathes wherever you are will suffice. Even better—set an alert in your phone as a reminder to breathe mindfully a few times a day. Practicing this technique before you encounter a serious stressor will help you feel more prepared to employ it when you really need it. Over a few breaths, zero in on every aspect of your breathing that would otherwise go unnoticed, such as the feeling of air traveling through your nose or mouth and the rise and fall of your chest.

Focus on your senses

This technique, like focused breathing, can be employed during a meditation session or briefly several times throughout the day. Dedicate a few seconds to paying close attention to exactly what your senses are experiencing in that moment. Focus on any sounds or smells around you, and for those few moments, prevent your mind from wandering off.

Create electronic-free zones

These can be either distinct times of day or physical places where you purposefully put down the electronics. You might put you phone away half an hour before they go to bed, or make a particular space electronic-free. The idea is to have a time or place where you can routinely slow the flow of incoming information and focus on where you are and how you feel.

Kyra Gordon (SAR ’21) said this is an integral part of mindfulness for people her age.

“I think in a very common sense, mindfulness can be attained by putting down your phone and stop worrying about other people and, instead, focusing on you,” she said.

Get outside

A 2014 study found that urban residents can see serious mental health benefits from spending time in greener outdoor areas. Breathing fresh air and feeling grass under out feet has a way of making us feel grounded, so take advantage of the warming temperatures by spending some time in the great outdoors. While your first instinct may be to grab a spot on the BU Beach along with the rest of the student body, consider finding somewhere else to enjoy nature. Try for somewhere less crowded and noisy, where you can truly focus on yourself and the environment around you.

Emma Bianculli (CGS ’18/SAR ’20) says that, weather permitting, getting outside is a staple in her self-care routine.

“I usually feel really relaxed and at peace after getting outside, I love to lie down on the grass,” she said. “I like that I don’t have to try and keep a habit of it, it’s something I just want to do.”

Mix up your routine

It’s easy to find yourself going through the motions when you fall into a consistent routine. To combat this, try and keep yourself on your toes. Maybe allocate a few extra minutes to your walk to class so you can take a leisurely stroll down Bay State road instead of rushing down Comm. Ave. If you usually get your Starbucks to go, choose a day when you have the time and find a cozy café to sit and enjoy your drink instead.