What Does Practicing Mindfulness Mean and How Do I Do It?

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Do you ever feel that semester slump? You were going strong for a few weeks and then all of a sudden, you swear you’d rather run 16 miles instead of going to class. You daydream during lectures and forget to complete assignments before you know it, the day has ended and you haven’t completed anything off your to-do list. You need to start practicing mindfulness.

Ready to get your life together and relax? Prioritize what’s important and put your mind over matter:

Get your head in the game this semester and learn about practicing mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?

In short, mindfulness is awareness. Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing through all five of your senses, or to your state of mind through your active thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. “During yoga practice I encourage people to create space,” said Zen Vibe Yoga owner and instructor Lauren Wilsman. “It’s not literal, but more so a space in the mind that is quiet, it’s always there but narrowing in on it and being conscious of it, allowing people to find a center, regardless of what’s happening externally.”

Who should I start practicing mindfulness and why?

“It’s for everyone and anyone,” Wilsman said. “Regardless of life circumstances, it definitely benefits college students though and people in corporate environments.” Being mindful doesn’t require us to change who we are just simply where we choose to focus our energy.

When we aren’t aware of the things that are happening around us we lose sight of what’s most important. “The future is so scary,” said University of South Florida junior Emily Gilbert. “The unknown of all the things that could and could not happen keeps me up some nights, I know it’s not good but it’s hard for my brain to just shut off those thoughts.”

No one is immune to stress. I mean, we deal with classes, jobs, internships and maintaining an active social life, which can feel overwhelming. By not being aware of your subconscious actions, your mind gets lost in the stars and you lose touch with your body and the things you want out of life. To remain centered, not only during college but in the world of 9 to 5 jobs and bills, practicing mindfulness will be beneficial to the way you react and handle stress.

“I’ve been practicing yoga and meditation for three years now,” University of Central Florida junior Kaleigh Garcia said. “It became really important when I started college, it’s a stressful but exciting time, but I still need that time to take care of my well-being.”

How do I practice mindfulness?

Set aside time daily to begin practicing mindfulness. I know can seem like a lot of effort to dedicate time specifically for meditating when you have other things to cross off your agenda, but setting some time aside will ultimately benefit you in the long run.

“Just five minutes of meditating everyday, is more beneficial in the long-run than a heavy duty two-hour practice, once a week,” Wilsman said. We’ve been programmed to always be active and busy that we forget the simplicity of finding our center balance, but results will come.

Mindfulness is a full body experience, not just the things going on in your head. First, take a seat, it can be anywhere, a chair, your bed or even a bench on campus. Straighten your body and let your arms drop to your lap or sides. Often your eyes will begin to close as you have this letting go experience, so let them. While in this relaxing state, be there and only there. Don’t let your mind wander, and always return to the present moment.

What practicing mindfulness isn’t

Mindfulness isn’t about fixing you. Instead it has to do with easing the things we’ve become used to in our routine lives. Mindfulness doesn’t mean stopping thoughts, but focusing them. It also does not equate to a religious thing or an escape from the reality of life. “We are harnessing in on tools that can be carried off the yoga mat,” Wilsman said. “Whether it’s sitting in traffic, walking around on campus or being in a crowded area, it’s having that center to come back to.”

What are the benefits of practicing mindfulness?

Want to do better in your classes? Or maybe you want to connect with your friends on a deeper level? Being mindful can help with these situations and so many more. Being aware of our own emotions, reactions and feelings can help you reshape the unexpected moments in life.

What if one one day your car breaks down on your way to a important job interview? Instead of having a breakdown on the side of the road, you’ll have a better tools to fix the problem. You’ll know to keep your cool, call for help and let the company know that you’ll be a little late. A broken-down car doesn’t need to turn into a complete meltdown, and staying calm and being aware of your reactions will make the delaying situation a learning lesson.

“Being mindful and practicing calms the nervous system, which is responsible for physical and mental functions,” Wilsman said. “Often times the nervous system is being overused which puts the sympathetic nervous system on high alert, which pumps adrenaline that’s not needed, that creates a lot of stress in our society.” Using the breath on a conscious level and being aware of how the body reacts puts the parasympathetic nervous system into action, and that calms the body letting it know it’s alright in stressful situations.

Practicing mindfulness will also make you a better friend. Instead of glazing over as they rant about their horrible boss, you’ll be able to give them your full attention. Some of the other benefits of mindfulness also include reducing stress and enhancing your performance in class. When you take the time to observe your own mind, you’ll gain insight and awareness on your personal everyday actions. You’ll  begin to know yourself better at a time when everything is about trial and error.

Brianna is a senior at the University of Florida studying Journalism and Women's Studies. She lives off of iced coffee and tacos, is a happy feminist and watches too much reality television when she's not writing.

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