Welcome back everyone! I know you are all excited for the fall semester, some more so than others – #GraduatingSeniors! In my experience, each new semester begins the same: on point notetaking, engrossed in daily reading, working ahead of schedule, and I feel great. Then something happens; one day, I wake up, finals are just around the corner, there’s a ball of anxiety lingering in the pit of my stomach, and I realize that at some point, the procrastination monster moved in! Notes are scribbled everywhere. I am behind on readings, and I no longer feel great. One thought lingers within, “How did I let this happen?”
You Are Not Alone
I used to think it was only me until I had a heart-to-heart with a few classmates a couple of semesters ago. I began to realize that we all have something in common, procrastination. It is estimated that 80-95% of college students exhibit procrastination habits (Ellis & Knaus, 1977; O’Brien, 2002). Odds are, if you look to your right and then to your left, you’re bound to meet a fellow procrastinator. The consequence of procrastination impacts more than our grades; Studies indicate that procrastination has physiological implications such as a lower sense of task responsibility, feeling a lack of control in learning activities, reduces the possibility of success, and has a negative impact on physical and mental health (Çıkrıkçı & Erzen, 2020; Hen & Goroshit, 2020; Tice & Baumeister, 1997).
Overcoming Obstacles with Mindfulness
Healthy work habits and positive mental health are essential in academic and professional environments. I’ve learned that the key to a positive and healthy life is having access to the tools one needs to cope with the stresses and events in the world around us. The most beneficial tool that I have added to my toolbox is the practice of Mindfulness. The science of Mindfulness is a practice that has been adopted from Eastern religious practices such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Chances are you have come across an article or two encouraging mindfulness meditation and thought to yourself, “Is this a new trend or something?” The answer is No! It is not a trend. It is an ancient practice that has been proven to be legit.
Is Mindfulness Meditation Right for Me?
Absolutely! Everyone can benefit from practicing Mindfulness. Our minds are like little children that need to be directed, controlled, and trained to move in the right direction. An untrained mind will always be drawn towards the strongest desire, thought, or emotion: Good or Bad. Positive or Negative. The untrained mind does not discriminate. It is the untrained mind that allows us to choose instant gratification over the tough decision of doing our assignment. Odds are you can think of a million things that you need to do that allow you to push your assignments to the back burner. But when we do this, we set ourselves up for failure. So how do we retrain our minds?
How to Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness requires that we focus on the current moment, shifting our awareness to the thoughts that are flooding into our minds. Often, we find these thoughts are from a time past, or of the near future, which means that our minds are not actually in the moment. By practicing Mindfulness, we better focus on the emotions or desires that drive procrastination. In recognizing how the decision to procrastinate rises and falls, we can better self-regulate our response to these emotions and desires. Through self-regulation, we can train ourselves to acknowledge our emotions and desires proactively. Through our acknowledgment and awareness of what this habit looks like, we become aware of our desires, allowing them to pass and in time we can train ourselves to create new habits that allow productivity and growth.
What I am suggesting would look a bit like this:
- Close your eyes and shut out all distractions.
- Focusing on your breath, feel your lungs expand with air, naturally breath out, feeling the air as it moves past your lips.
- As you continue your breathing, be aware of any thoughts that come into your mind and gently allow them to fade away, bringing your focus back to the breath.
- Repeat these steps for as little as 10 minutes or longer if you wish.
This practice can be used wherever you are, as often as you would like. If you’re unable to close your eyes, that’s fine; simply focus on your breath, and be in the moment. Practicing this a couple of times a day will allow you to create a new habit of awareness. The more you practice, you will begin to find you are more aware of the moment than you once were. It is human nature to go with the flow, allowing the mind to engage in what feels good at the moment. However, allowing our minds to do what feels good does not mean we make the best choice. As we learn to be more mindful, we see these desires and thoughts for what they are- unnecessary nuisances. By training our minds through mindfulness meditations we will feel more secure in our positive choices, have control over our learning activities, increase our possibility of success and ensure our physical and mental health are top notch.