study break

Mindful Meditation: A Cheap and Effective Stress Reliever

Mind over Matter

Part of being a college student is constantly dealing with an influx of stress. Unfortunately, this influx is rarely paired with helpful coping mechanisms for overcoming it. I’ve yet to have a professor hold an instructional yoga class before an upcoming exam. In most situations, we’re forced to find our own methods for stress relief.  When you’re already experiencing stress and anxiety, finding a solution in the moment to overcome it is a challenge. However, I recommend one mechanism currently showing great promise: Achieving mindfulness.

Mind over matter. We’re often confronted with this mantra when our will power is in question. When we’re studying for a chemistry exam but expecting to fail, mind over matter. When we’re tempted to stray from our diet, mind OVER matter. When you have a cold on race day after foolishly signing up for a second year of cross country despite knowing you struggle with running… mind. over. matter.

What does mind over matter really mean? To break it down, matter is the situation you are confronted with; the cross country race, the exam. The mind is yourself, or your thoughts and feelings. Ashumans, we’re constantly thinking and assessing everything happening in the spectrum of our existence. Mind over matter is the notion that if we can get a grasp on our minds, then we can overcome the matter in front of us. If I will myself torun and finish the cross country race, then I can.

mindful meditation

The Research BehindMindful Meditation

Mindfulness is a growing interest in the field of psychology. Where tactics like psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioral therapy once reigned, mindfulness now conquers. In psychology, mindful meditation is a practice intended to combat the negative effects associated with disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder. Hopelessness, stress, and neurotic feelings are some of the many negative effects it can help reduce.  In contrast, cognition, awareness, and attention can increase when one practices mindful meditation. 

Mindful meditation is a means to achieving mindfulness. Physiologist are sewing meditation into the foreground for treating psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety. A meta-analysis conducted by Eberth & Sedlmeier in 2012 compiled 39 previous studies on mindful meditation and analysed the results. The individual studies focused on how mindful meditation affects a person’s well-being, including their ability to concentrate on their thoughts. In this analysis, mindful meditation referred to the Buddhist practices Vipassana and Zen/Chan. The results of the analysis showed that both mindful meditation, and even general meditation, led to positive increases in attention,mood and well being, and a reduction in anxiety.

mindful meditation

Effective Ways to Meditate

To employ the practices featured in the meta-analysis for achieving mindfulness, one must work towards self-awareness and focus the mind on present experiences.  Concentrate on becoming open, curious, and accepting.  Luckily, you can practice mindful meditation anywhere you find comfortable.  You can chose to meditate in your dorm room, in the park, or in a quiet space on campus. This means mindful meditation accessible to everyone.

There is no limitation to how you can meditate; we’re all very different.  You can meditate in bed, while sitting down on a park bench, or even through exercise. Personally, I enjoy meditating while on a long run since I’m naturally fidgety. However, I acknowledge that most people tend to despise running. How you successfully practice mindful meditation will depend on your personality. Simply by setting aside time to focus on your thoughts and reflect, you too can achieve mindfulness.

Are you new to meditation? There are quite a few online resources for those who haven’t meditated before. UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center provides a variety of free exercises that provide instructions via audio guides. Additionally, Youtube  has a great selection of meditation guides that are tailored to a variety of specific needs such as anxiety relief and help with sleeplessness.

mindful meditation

Why You Should Try Meditation

Stress from school is never pleasant. It also limits our ability to concentrate and work efficiently. Students who feel stressed or overworked may even turn to destructive behaviors such as binge drinking or illegal drugs, both of which are harmful to the mind and body. Mindful meditation provides easy access to stress relief in a safe and effective way. It’s also free!  The next time assignments feel like they’re a bit too out of hand, take time to relax and focus your thoughts. Try practicing mindful meditation to gain control over your situation. You’ll quickly discover the benefits are endless!

10 Tips for Acing Your Exams

There is no better feeling than walking out of a test knowing that you totally rocked it and have a great opportunity at getting the A you need to bring up your GPA. On the contrary, walking out of a test knowing that you bombed the exam totally sucks. For those who come out with their heads held high, keep doing what you’re doing. For those who are looking for a little guidance, read on. There are quite a few things you can do to increase those test scores–and sorry, cheating isn’t one of them.

1. GO TO CLASS. It sounds easy, but going to class is extremely underrated. Not only will it help with those in-class pop quizzes and attendance scores, but you’ll also figure out what your teacher is emphasizing for exams.

2. WRITE EXAM DATES IN YOUR CALENDAR. Planning ahead can help you organize your schedule before things start piling up; this way you can plan when to study for exams and when to work on that big research paper. By having your important dates organized in a calendar, you are constantly being reminded of upcoming deadlines. No more excuses to procrastinate!

3. STUDY IN A NEAT, QUIET, CLEAN ENVIRONMENT. Studies have shown that students who are studying in an organized environment are more likely to retain more information and make better grades. If you’ve got the time, you may want to consider tidying up before you crack open that textbook.

4. STUDY BASED ON YOUR LEARNING STYLE. Everyone is a little different when it comes to the way they study. Are you better at using flashcards or talking to others about particular concepts? Click here to see what kind of learning style suits your personality. By discovering how you normally process information, you can ignore ineffective learning techniques and focus on what clicks for you.

5. CREATE A STUDY GROUP. If you don’t already know some people  in your class, start making new friends! It is very helpful to get different perspectives on material; chances are you didn’t write down every single note or concept. When selecting study partners, make sure to choose people who actively participate in class. You want to include the annoying chick who raises her hand for every question, not the guy dozing off in the back of class.

6. STUDY IN ADVANCE. Yes, there are over 1,000 things you can think of doing instead of studying for a test. But guess what, you’re a big kid now and you need to start handling important priorities. Try taking 30 minutes or so to review the material every day instead of pulling an all-nighter. Give enough time to let the material sink in; cramming will push everything into your short-term memory banks, which is about as unreliable as an umbrella in a hurricane.

7. TAKE STUDY BREAKS. Study breaks are crucial because it gives your brain a little downtime to relax and let the material sink in better. If you push yourself too hard for too long, your brain will hit what I like to call “information overload”. Try and study at a consistent pace, taking breaks as needed, to lower your stress levels. You shouldn’t have to rely on No-Dos and Red Bulls to get you through those 6 chapters the night before the exam.

8. GO TO OFFICE HOURS. If there are any concepts you’re having trouble with, talk to your teacher about it. It is their job to help you, and office hours are their set times to talk to students in need.

9. MAKE A STUDY GUIDE. If the professor has not provided one for you, make an outline of the material that will be covered on the exam. This way you’ll have a bird’s eye view of what to study and what you can skip over.

10 REST UP. In my personal experience, getting a good night’s sleep TWO nights before the exam is crucial. Eating well–yes, that means a healthy meal–the night before and the morning of the test are also very important; your brain needs energy to properly function during the exam.

Study hard and make those grades!



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