How often do college students take the time to stop and smell the roses, let alone set aside half an hour to meditate? As we get older, the opportunities to set aside time to relax decreases, so why not start now and get in the habit early? Numerous studies suggest there may be many benefits to meditation, not just psychologically, but physically and emotionally.
Interested to learn more about this practice and how it can help you? Here are three reasons to start mediating and three tips for those just starting out:
Reasons to Start Meditating:
1. Meditation may decrease stress.
This is one of the best incentives for college students to start meditating. While some stress is healthy and occasional, short bouts are okay, the amount of stress most college students experience on a regular basis is not healthy.
Although there is no concrete scientific proof that meditation decreases stress, there is evidence to suggest it does. According to the National Institutes of Health, meditation is believed to work on stress by "reducing activity in the sympathetic nervous system", which is colloquially known as the "fight or flight" system, and "increasing activity in the parasympathetic nervous system", which is associated with times of rest.
But even if the science doesn't have you sold, meditation is still worth a try during your stressful weeks, if only for the mental break it offers. Taking the time to focus on something besides impending exams, projects, and presentations, even for just a few minutes, can help rejuvenate your mind and ease your worries.
2. Meditation can improve concentration.
Another perk of meditation is that, by nature, it forces you to work on your concentration. After trying it for the first time, many people are surprised by how much mental energy it requires to meditate. It takes strength of will to clear out the mental clutter and allow oneself to concentrate on nothing but the present, something meditation trains you to do by nature. In addition, a recent study has linked meditation to an increase in attention spans.
Improving concentration will not only benefit your schoolwork, but it will help you with your jobs and internships, extracurriculars, and sports, too - in short, it will pay dividends in nearly every area of your life.
3. Meditation may help increase overall emotional well-being.
Although, again, these claims are not yet backed by concrete studies, meditation is thought by many to help improve creativity, happiness, and peace of mind, all of which are important facets of one’s emotional health.
And it's easy to see why meditation may have these positive effects: By focusing on the present as opposed to the troubles of the past and future, you can work to improve how you feel in the present moment and work on who you are right now, which will cause an immediate shift in your mindset. And, by meditating regularly, you'll feel more equipped to put yourself in a positive mood whenever you need to.
Meditation Tips for Those Just Starting Out:
Now that you've seen a few of the potential benefits of meditation, you probably want to try it yourself, right? If you've never meditated before or just aren't sure how to start, here are a few quick tips to get you going.
If you want a more advanced guide to meditation, there are lots of resources available online - a quick Google search will turn up hundreds. Also, the Buddhism-focused Mindfulness in Plain English has lots of helpful tips and methods for beginners.
1. Focus on your breathing.
One of the most challenging aspects of meditation is maintaining the proper state of mind, which requires focusing on nothing but the present moment. One of the easiest ways to do this is to concentrate on your breathing. Focus on your breathing, count the number of breaths that you inhale and exhale, and let that anchor you to the present.
2. Let thoughts come to mind—then let them go.
If you find it difficult to concentrate on your breathing and realize you are thinking about stressful or unrelated things, don’t get upset with yourself or quit! Just recognize that you are thinking about unrelated matters, then let them go, and bring yourself back to the present moment.
3. Don’t give up!
Meditation may be frustrating at first and it is easy to give up when you feel as though you are not experiencing the benefits or that it is taking too long to learn. However, try and keep with it! Try meditating for shorter periods of time and build your way up to longer stretches. The benefits of meditation will reveal themselves in time, but only if you keep working at it.
What do you think?
Do you meditate? What are your tips for meditation? Why do you meditate? Have you found it helpful in managing the daily grind of college life? Have you noticed any benefits? Leave me a comment and let me know!