Mindfulness and meditation can benefit students and educators

The+Den+in+the+Student+Union+with+pillows%2C+plants%2C+and+a+couch.

Photo by Noah Morrow

The Den in the Student Union is a wonderful place to go for a quiet space to practice mindfulness and meditation.

Noah Morrow, Reporter

Mindfulness and meditation can be practiced in many different ways and can help students and educators achieve a sense of balance amid all the daily pressures and responsibilities that they are constantly being confronted with. 

“Mindfulness, or the practice of being aware of and accepting your present moment without judgment, teaches individuals to breathe, focus and connect themselves to the present moment,” Cap Aguilar said in an article published for Panorama Education

Two ways mindfulness has been practiced by the California Lutheran University Vice President for Talent, Culture and Diversity Cristallea K. Buchanan is in the form of daily reflection and prayers. 

“I pray every day and take time to reflect every week,” Buchanan said in an email interview. 

In an article written by Kendra Cherry for VeryWell Mind, Cherry said, “making mindfulness meditation a regular practice can lead to stronger effects, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to do it every day. In fact, studies have found that meditating three to four times per week can have big benefits–and, regularly meditating for eight weeks will actually alter the brain, according to neuroimaging studies.”

The stronger effects Cherry is referring to include reduced stress, lower heart rate, improved immunity and better sleep. 

Over the years, there has been conversations conducted around when the right time to practice mindfulness meditation is, as well as how long one should practice for. 

“It’s important to remember that even a few minutes each day can be beneficial,” Cherry said.

This can be done right when you get up in the morning, before you drive, before a class or meeting starts or anywhere where you can minimize distractions. 

“I recommend some form of meditation every day even if it’s only for a few minutes. Before any major decision and when I’m in a conflict situation with others, I take time to meditate on my values, everyone’s interests and desired outcomes,” Buchanan said. 

Both educators and students can benefit tremendously from developing a mindfulness practice for themselves. 

Buchanan said there are some mindful questions educators and students could ask themselves to become more self aware. 

“How do you want to show up here? What’s the desired outcome? Who will be impacted by your actions, positive and negative? Remove yourself from the situation and see if you would give the same advice to another person in that situation. What does empathy look like in this situation? What’s the bigger person action?” Buchanan said.

These questions serve as a firm foundation for anyone who wants to become more self aware of or intentional with their behaviors. 

“Several pilot studies show that mindfulness training can increase educators’ overall job satisfaction, improve their quality of sleep and increase both their self-compassion & self-regulation skills,” Aguilar said. 

Buchanan illustrated how this rings true to her on a personal level. 

“It makes me a more thoughtful and empathetic leader. It helps me to live a more purpose driven life according to my values,” Buchanan said.

Self regulation plays an important role in how we as human beings conduct ourselves in our everyday lives. Mindfulness is a path that shows us how we can be more purposeful with how we choose to behave.

Buchanan also explained how important it is to sustain emotion regulation. 

“Creative problem solving happens in the prefrontal cortex of our brain. If we don’t regulate our emotions, we downshift to the amygdala part of our brain and we can only react. This is when crimes of passion happen.” 

Psychotherapist and Personal Coach Gayle Canton personally practices mindfulness on her own and said that she has used several mindfulness techniques when working with her clients.  

“It is very important to lead an intentional life, and mindfulness and meditation aim to help you create that regardless of your environment, work or personal, stressors or joy,” Canton said. 

Sustaining focused attention is one of the most important outcomes of mindfulness and meditation, and there are several tools that one can use while practicing. 

Canton said “[it’s] extremely important to use the tools that mindfulness and meditation has to offer to help you learn to regulate your emotions and respond versus react. With practice, you learn to slow things down and be with what is with full acceptance. As you do this you will find more satisfaction personally and professionally.”