Most of our time is spent thinking about what lies before us and what lies behind. We don’t spend a lot of time in the here and now. Innately, we often overthink aspects of our past and worry about our future. With all the time we spend in this state of mind, there’s little time left to live in the present moment. That’s a struggle for most Americans, especially in the fast-paced society that drives our lives. For college students, mindfulness can be a powerful stress reliever. It can reduce existing stress and develop a strong ability to deal with stress when it does come up.

What is mindfulness?

By definition, mindfulness is the psychological process of purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment, which one develops through the practice of meditation and through other training. It’s the ability to be fully present and aware without being reactive. 

Because of this, being mindful is a skill that helps build a healthy stress response. When stress comes, mindful people are able to observe it and sit with it without reacting immediately. In college, a notable amount of stress comes along with pursuing a degree and living on your own. Mindfulness is a practice to help you stay afloat rather than letting stress push you under the waves. It’s one of the best things you can do for your mental health.

How to improve mindfulness as a college student

Meditation is one of the most popular ways to practice mindfulness because it calms the mind and promotes deep relaxation. It allows you to dwell in the present moment for the entirety of your meditation session. Additionally, it equips you with the skill to be mindful so you can bring that to the rest of your day. It increases your capacity for focus and memory, both important to excel academically. It’s also simple to get started. As a beginner, you don’t need more than 10 minutes. Generally, guided meditations are great for beginners because they train your mind to reach a meditative state. Unguided meditation is a step that the more advanced can take to dive deeper into the practice. There are many methods, but an easy way to begin is downloading Calm or Headspace, or searching “guided meditation” on YouTube. 

Former Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan outlines a quick and easy 6-second mindfulness technique called “one mindful breath.” He tells his students all they need to commit to when starting a mindfulness journey is just one mindful breath a day. Once that’s complete, you’ve accomplished your mindfulness practice and done something good for yourself no matter what comes your way the rest of the day.

Another simple mindfulness practice for college students is taking note of the nature around you. Do you ever get to class and realize you were on your phone the entire time? By doing this, we miss out on the beauty around us that can ground us in the present moment. Maybe new flowers on the quad are blooming, or there’s a cardinal in the tree on your way to the library. Noticing the natural beauty of our environment keeps us present, rather than preoccupied with what we’re about to do or what we just did. Try this the next time you’re walking somewhere on campus.

Just start somewhere.

Once you begin practicing mindfulness, it can become the healthiest habit you’ll pursue all day. You’ll look forward to your me-time that rejuvenates you and relieves your stress. Try to do something at the same time everyday to build it into your routine. You’ll become more comfortable with sitting in the present moment. Realize your thoughts are simply thoughts; there are no good thoughts or bad thoughts. Just be, don’t judge.

 If starting to meditate feels overwhelming, just get started. Any progress is better than no progress. The beauty of meditation and mindfulness is that you’ll see benefits right away, even when you have a lot still to learn. For college students, mindfulness is a powerful tool to deal with stressful schedules and prioritize being in the moment. Your brain will certainly thank you.