Mindfulness is the quality of being fully engaged in the present moment, without analyzing or otherwise “over-thinking” the experience. Meditation that cultivates mindfulness is particularly effective at reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions. Rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, mindfulness meditation switches the focus to what’s happening right now.
Mindfulness at Elon
Elon offers a variety of programming and resources to support mindfulness. To learn more, we recommend exploring the Mindful at Elon web site. This site outlines mindfulness resources and opportunities offered by a variety of organizations on campus and provides more information about mindful practices. Be sure to check out the “Mindfulness for Faculty and Staff” page for campus resources and opportunities specific to Elon’s faculty and staff. If you are interested in learning about opportunities as they arise, follow Mindful Elon on Facebook.
Mindfulness Practices to Try Now
Although opportunities abound on campus that promote mindfulness, you can practice mindfulness meditations on your own.
Starting a Meditation Practice
The only things you need to start meditating are:
- A quiet environment. Choose a secluded place in your home, office, garden, place of worship, or in the great outdoors where you can relax without distractions or interruptions.
- A comfortable position. Get comfortable, but avoid lying down as this may lead to you falling asleep. Sit up with your spine straight, either in a chair or on the floor. You can also try a cross-legged or lotus position.
- A point of focus. Pick a meaningful word or phrase and repeat it throughout your session. You may also choose to focus on an object in your surroundings to enhance your concentration, or alternately, you can close your eyes.
- An observant, noncritical attitude. Don’t worry about distracting thoughts that go through your mind or about how well you’re doing. If thoughts intrude during your relaxation session, don’t fight them. Instead, gently turn your attention back to your point of focus.
For stress relief, try the following mindfulness meditation techniques:
- Body Scan – Body scanning cultivates mindfulness by focusing attention on various parts of your body. Like progressive muscle relaxation, you start with your feet and work your way up. However, instead of tensing and relaxing your muscles, you simply focus on the way each part of your body feels without labeling the sensations as either “good” or “bad.”
- Walking Meditation – You don’t have to be seated or still to meditate. In walking meditation, mindfulness involves being focused on the physicality of each step – the sensation of your feet touching the ground, the rhythm of your breath while moving, and feeling the wind against your face.
- Mindful Eating – If you reach for food when you’re under stress or gulp your meals down in a rush, try eating mindfully. Sit down at the table and focus your full attention on the meal (no TV, newspapers, or eating on the run). Eat slowly, taking the time to fully enjoy and concentrate on each bite.
- Mindfulness meditation is not equal to zoning out. It takes effort to maintain your concentration and to bring it back to the present moment when your mind wanders or you start to drift off. But with regular practice, mindfulness meditation actually changes the brain – strengthening the areas associated with joy and relaxation, and weakening those involved in negativity and stress.
Want to learn more? The Center for Koru Mindfulness offers free guided meditations.