On average, we take approximately 16 breaths per minute, and 960 breaths an hour, adding up to 23,040 breaths a day. Our lungs inhale fresh new oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Breathing is one of the basic bodily functions that we have been doing from the moment we were born to the moment we die. It signifies life when we are born and take that first breath in the delivery room and death when we take our final breath. It is the breeding ground for life. It is capable of more than we think. We hold the power of something as precious as our breath, which is used to control so much of our lives.
Mindfulness is the practice of being in the moment. It is observing our feelings in a stable and content state of mind without judgement or criticism. It is the state of being or merely existing. Little do people know, that state of being not only has the ability to increase academic performance, self-awareness, self-esteem and improved ability to relate to others, but also to reduce symptoms of mental illness.
Mindfulness has been proven to have a positive influence in the classroom. Universities across the country have already implemented mindfulness programs into their student life. Carnegie Mellon University currently has a mindfulness room, in which students can come and exercise and reset their brains. Indiana University also employs a mindfulness program where they have yoga, meditation, aromatherapy and massage, according to NBC News. The practice of mindfulness works in a unique way and is often compared to exercise of the brain. Mindfulness builds and strengthens neural connections in the brain that are linked to concentration and awareness. Those skills are vital for maintaining success in the classroom.
College students are no stranger to mental health issues. Psychology Today reported that anxiety is the top mental health concern for college students, with a whopping 41.6 percent of students reporting anxiety followed by depression. Mindfulness training can reduce symptoms of anxiety by teaching your brain how to respond to any emotion that may come up, as well as being better able to process them without getting as worked up.
While there are simple ways of practicing mindfulness, one training exercise involves holding a raisin in your mouth to observe all the textures and sensations that come along with it. Focusing on the raisin allows your brain to relax and be totally present in the moment. Yoga has also been proven to help with cognitive function and learning.
Focusing on the here and now is a simple, seemingly mindless task that has proven time and time again to have significant success not only in the classroom, but also in all areas of a person’s life. Taking five or ten minutes a day to sit and focus on the present moment has the ability to make an impact that lasts a lifetime. The tools are all accessible. They are all right here. They are all open now. They are in our back pocket just waiting to be used.