Mindfulness: The First Steps

Amid a pandemic, most professors or scientists are not widely promoting ways to go about being mindful. Sure, everyone says to “take some time for yourself” if you need to, or to “focus on your personal needs”, but there is no one approach that fits everyone’s schedule or needs. As someone who has recently started taking mindfulness more seriously, I wanted to share a couple of tips for how to approach it, as this finals season is unlike any other and mental health is extremely important.

The first of these mindful approaches to my education was app-guided meditation: I have the app Headspace downloaded on my computer and I use it both to help me focus when I have large tests coming up and to help me get to sleep. I never enjoyed meditation in school because I felt like it was a forced exercise, but now that I choose when to meditate myself, and see how it can actually help me in my everyday life, I respect it much more as a form of unwinding for bed and refocusing on my studies in the morning. I highly recommend using an app, such as Headspace to calm your brain. By incorporating a short 5-minute meditation into my schedule, I have increased productivity and feel healthier, both mentally and physically. You can even use the new iOS update to create meditation shortcuts on your home screen during your wind-down period so that you do not forget to make time for it in your bedtime routine!

The second approach is something that I do not do every day, but only when I really need to, and it is journaling. You can find lots of resources on how to start a journal and how to continue it every day but I find that journaling can help me make sense of some of the events of my day or week. I myself journal infrequently, usually using it as a sort of diary to write down, as I so eloquently call it in my document drive, “my thoughts on stuff”. And yes, my journal is a word document and not pen and paper. An important note: journaling does not have to be as formal as you see people do on TikTok. Whatever works for you to help you digest what is going on in the world around you is the most important part of the journaling process, and you do not have to do it the same way that others do because you are not the same as everyone else.

The most important part of being mindful is not comparing your experience to anyone else’s. There is no one prescribed way to be mindful, and if anyone tells you that they are lying. Everyone goes through life differently, so why should your mindfulness practices be the same as someone you only know through a social media account? Be sure to take whatever mindful practices you decide to take part in at your own pace and find what works for you. For some, journaling is a tedious job, and they would rather be distressing through means of self-care like healthy cooking or homemade face masks. At the end of the day, the most important part of mindfulness is taking a minute for yourself, to sit and cut out the distractions and stressors in your life.