From an early age society has taught us to be mindful; mindful of our actions, mindful of our words, mindful of others’ feelings and even to mind our manners. Through a self-aware lens, we examine our lives, significant parts of the day, conversations and everyday occurrences. Being in the now and focusing our attention towards the present is the Buddhist practice of mindfulness.
Often accompanied by meditation and deep breathing exercises, mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular in mainstream media as a component of positive mental health. This semester, the University of Rhode Island’s Anna Fasciteli & Wellness Center is collaborating with health studies major, Bridie Keefe, to organize “Mindful Moments,” a weekly series directed towards incorporating mindfulness into all aspects of life.
As a senior health studies major, with a concentration in health promotion, Keefe hopes to help educate students on the importance of mindfulness through her weekly class. The class will utilize vision boards to help students focus on their goals, in addition to incorporating guided meditations, breathing exercises, and implementing positive affirmations into their routines.
Practicing mindfulness looks different for everyone, but the benefits are universal. “It impacted every part of my life,” explained Keefe. “My relationships with my friends are better, my boyfriend and I have a more genuine relationship and I just get a lot more out of interactions.”
Prior to incorporating active meditation into her life, Keefe said, “I wasn’t in my own mind, I was worried about deadlines, I was worried about graduation, and I realized I had no relationship with myself and that I didn’t want to live like that.”
Keefe began her journey with mindfulness through research and by just trying to be more present in the moment. “Even making your bed is a form of active meditation,” said Keefe. “Just breathe, try to focus on what you are doing, and work on changing your attitude into a positive one.”
Keefe found another place for mindfulness with food. “I took time to taste my food, to feel the texture, and to think about what I was putting into my body and how it made me feel,” she said.
While active meditation throughout the day is one way to incorporate mindfulness, it’s not the only way. For Keara Shores, a junior majoring in human development and family studies, mindfulness is tied to physical health just as much as mental health.
After a year and a half of practicing mindfulness, Shores became more devoted when she realized she was working hard on her physical health, but not taking the needed care of her mental health.
“I was too obsessed with the sweating part of the workout,” explained Keara. “Mindfulness during the cool down, where I think about my body, has become something I try to focus on.”
Shores learned a lot about mindfulness through yoga and barre classes, but also through research online and Pinterest.
“It’s helped me make major life decisions and to focus on what is more important in the moment and in life,” said Shores. “Five out of the seven days I wake up and do a yoga sequences, either on my own or with guidance, and set my intentions for the day.”
For some, active meditation may not be an everyday practice, but mindfulness is incorporated into their daily lives through the way they think. “Once you feel mindful, and once you feel present in the moment, you’ll want to be like that all the time,” said Keefe.
Emily Loomis, a junior biology and philosophy major, is relatively new to mindfulness, but has already found it to be beneficial in her day-to-day life.
“I hold a lot of stress and tension in my body,” explained Loomis, “and being able to clear my mind eases that. Mindfulness is reaffirming your existence in the moment so that you can be more comfortable and make the moment yours.” Loomis likes to practice mindfulness in the morning in order to prepare for the day.
At night, Shores practices light stretching and shavasana before getting into bed. “I like to collect my thoughts,” said Shores. “After that moment I don’t look at the phone or talk to other people until I wake up the next morning.”
Mindfulness requires some discipline, but it is something to work towards. “A lot of people are nervous about living a mindful life because of their busy schedules,” explained Shores. “That when your brain is flooded with obligations there’s too much going on to be present in the moment.”
“Focus on the fact that it’s a process,” recommended Shores, “you’re not perfect and mindfulness is never something to complete, but to work towards.”
Regardless of practicing mindfulness in the morning, throughout the day, or right before bed, mindfulness aids in understanding stress and being able to relax and breathe.
“I realized I needed mindfulness when I felt so unsettled in my body,” said Keefe.
Keefe hopes the students who attend her class “gain ways to find peace within their chaotic lives as college students,” just as she found balance with mindfulness this past semester.
“Mindful Moments” meets Tuesdays in the Wellness Resource Center, located on the lower level of the Anna Fasciteli Fitness & Wellness Center from 6:30 until 7:30 p.m.