You may have heard that mindfulness, or being present in the moment, can be used to combat stress and anxiety and help you drift off to sleep, but for professor Marti Miles-Rosenfield mindfulness is a way of life.
Miles-Rosenfield first noticed the benefits of meditative breathing, a mindfulness technique, when she learned to scuba dive and had to come up for air long before her diving partner.
“I was out of air, and he still had 20 pounds of air. I was breathing so fast. Once you realize the shark is not going to eat you, you can enjoy the beauty,” she said, laughing.
Miles-Rosenfield has attended numerous conference sessions on mindfulness and researched the topic for years. Today, she uses mindfulness as a thematic approach to her Integrated Reading and Writing classes. Students in her class read “The Happiness Advantage” and learn the premise of starting with happiness which leads to success.
“My students tell me they love the book and have told their friends and relatives about it. Mindfulness is not new. It is not religious in any way. It is just present-moment awareness. You are not spiraling out of control with the what ifs; you are just here,” she explains.
In Miles-Rosenfield’s class students complete an exercise in which they discover that they are multitasking. She notes that students might find that they have more than 250 hours of activities accounted for in a week even though a week is only 168 hours.
“You can’t be present with one thing if you are doing all these things at the same time,” Miles-Rosenfield said.
You don’t have to take the professor’s word about the benefits of mindfulness. Students are also echoing its praises.
During class, students shared research about how mindfulness techniques can positively impact people in their dream careers. They taught each other about how mindfulness helps physicians be more present with patients, is employed in leadership practices for business, improves strength training, enhances writing and art, helps police officers make better decisions as situations escalate and even addresses issues with perfectionism and depression.
A veterinary technician who plans to become a veterinarian and hopes to own a clinic, Danielle Richardson says she practices breathing exercises before work in her car and during homework.
“Mindfulness helps me a lot. It helps me focus and stay on task for what I want to accomplish. You are in the moment of your work with no distracting thoughts. Before I started taking this class I did not pay much attention to my stress. I recommend this for people because it helps you know what to do to relieve stress. I would tell students to take five minutes, breathe deeply and focus on the moment they are in.”
Glorinela Navarro says mindfulness can improve grades.
“In high school, I was good at math, but I got a C on my first math test in college. I’ve been doing the practices and going to the park. I take deep breaths and focus on what’s going to make me happy. My recent test grade was a 98,” said Navarro, who plans to earn a business degree.
“For me personally I felt like a lot of things were happening at once in my mind,” said Elijah Wilson, an aspiring author.
“Now, I slow down, and it is almost like things stop. It helps me process and sort everything out. I do it at home before I do homework. I get myself ready, prepare for it and collect my thoughts. I realized I am able to process things better, and I hold onto information longer.”
Teena Jacob says mindfulness exercises help her at school and at home.
“I was stressed when I came to college and would get headaches. Now, when I am studying at home at night I take a five-minute break and then start it. Before I was unfocused, but when I do five minutes I am focused. It gives my thinking creativity and relaxes me, and I do the work. When I got in a fight with my brother I used to get angry. Now, I keep quiet and sit for five or 10 minutes and then talk with him. My brother said, ‘I want to try that so I never fight with you,’” said Jacob, who plans to become a physician assistant.
For Ross Jennings, an aspiring Indie filmmaker and writer, mindfulness techniques just make sense.
“It is about being aware of your surroundings. I use it when I am stressed or feel under pressure. The breathing process helps me calm down. I return to my normal state. It also helps me to concentrate. I take three to four breaths before and during tests. It helps me keep on track.”
Want to learn more?
If you are interested in trying out a few techniques, check out the free mindfulness meditation sessions from noon-12:30 p.m., Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Spring Creek Campus in room I220. For more information, contact Dr. Joshua Arduengo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you can’t make it to the sessions, Miles-Rosenfield suggests trying out an app such as Headspace, Insight or Calm (www.calm.com/college). She notes that Calm recently began a new program for college students, and major research universities including Harvard, Princeton, New York University, Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Southern California, Northwestern University and Johns Hopkins University are taking advantage of it.
If you aren’t ready to download an app, but want to give it the old college try, check out the 4-7-8 mindfulness breathing techniques these students have experienced at https://cmhc.utexas.edu/mbl_audio6.html .