3 Helpful Mindfulness Practices for Beginners

I won't sugarcoat it: checking in with yourself can be a task. As busy college students, sometimes we postpone thoughts or feelings that don’t pertain to our homework or projects that need to come first. Just this week, I had something to do after class and between classes almost every day. However, as a senior, I’ve started to note what my limits are and I’ve become more self-aware. That doesn’t mean I’ve mastered how to maneuver shaky moments or developed perfect mindfulness techniques. I don’t believe anyone can offer advice in a few simple steps. Instead, I’d like to give you tips on what works for me, and in turn, what could work for you.

1. Breathing Exercises

If anything can settle you in the present moment, focusing on your breathing will do just that. There are several methods out there for breathing exercises. They all focus on the concept of deep breathing. The act of pausing calms your possibly over-stimulated and stressed out brain. I commonly use the 3-3-3 exercise where I inhale for three seconds, pause and hold for three seconds, and then exhale for three seconds. I do it on the bus, I do it waiting for my coffee at Starbucks, and I do it in my lecture hall waiting for class to start. Most commonly, I do it as I’m laying in bed and can’t fall asleep. Once you repeat it a few times, it should lull you into a nice slumber. Whatever exercise you choose, it should ground you in the moment.

2. Meditation… But Make it Digital

I recently accepted a trial for the Calm app. It’s kind of like your pocket friend that provides daily meditation on different topics, sleep narrations (one is from Matthew McConaughey, and if it’s eligible for winning an Audie Award, it would be the winner), and curated music. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had a busy week. In between running from my art studio, where I had a sandwich for dinner (oops), and a professional event for a club, I put my headphones on, opened Calm and listened to the Daily Calm. It was 10 minutes of breathing meditation, with a little message woven in towards the end. 

Apps like Calm are very popular and adaptable for students like us that are often on the move. Breathe and Headspace are also great alternatives too!

3. Walking

As if we don’t walk enough across campus at Illinois, I’d suggest walking some more - for the sole purpose of just walking. I know I don’t do this enough, but I’d like to try to move more. Again, we walk to class, but we usually have a lot on our mind. In this way, when we purposefully walk, or jog, or run, we are providing an opportunity to work out ideas, thoughts, and feelings in that space. It may help to go to the ARC or CRCE, so it’s a dedicated time and place to work out. Even ditching the headphones may make the experience that much more rewarding. Identify all that's around you, and a sense of gratitude and awareness will blossom.

Practicing mindfulness is a daily task. Adapt it to your schedule and learn what works best for you! Don’t mark it into your planner, pencil it into your life.

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