In a chaotic environment that enables stressful situations and seemingly interminable time crunches, it’s increasingly important for college students to take a step back and practice being mindful. Mindfulness, according to UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center, is “the moment-by-moment process of actively and openly observing one’s physical, mental and emotional experiences.” Practicing mindfulness has proven to lead to significant positive health effects including stress reduction, improved concentration and a better understanding of thoughts and feelings. These benefits would greatly improve the quality of life for many UCSB students and would help them deal with the everyday challenges of a college lifestyle.

Having a high stress level is one of the most ubiquitous issues among college students, and it can lead to many negative health effects like illness, anxiety and depression. According to the 2015 National College Health Assessment, 53.5 percent of college students reported feeling “more than average stress” or “tremendous stress” over the span of the year. Practicing mindfulness is a useful tool to manage this large amount of stress.

By training one’s mind to concentrate on one topic at a time, it helps sort the constant stream of thoughts and tasks that clutter our minds each day. Though many students already have tools to cope with stress, I encourage the adoption of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. It goes beyond stress reduction, with the potential to improve things like focus, empathy, relationship satisfaction, immune function and emotional responsiveness instead of emotional reaction.

Additionally, in a recent mindful meditation lunch sponsored by the Women’s Center, Christina McMahon of the UCSB Department of Theater and Dance discussed the idea of compassion and kindness toward one’s self. She conveyed that studies have shown that you are more likely to show deeper compassion and kindness to others if you are compassionate toward yourself.

This is an aspect of mindfulness that I truly want to highlight. Being compassionate toward yourself often times proves much more difficult than displaying compassion to others. It is easy for us as students to become absorbed with academic goals, extracurricular activities, work etc., and even easier to beat ourselves up when we don’t meet expectations. Thus, learning to embrace who we are and where we are in life will not only improve our quality of life, but the quality of life for our community as well as.

Mindful meditation, in many ways, can help students make more meaningful connections to themselves and others, grow as individuals and thrive in daily life. This is why Health & Wellness is dedicated to providing students the opportunity to practice guided mindful meditation at least two times a week. Our Community Mindfulness Practices are led by mindfulness experts from the Santa Barbara and Goleta community, including Dawa Tarchin Phillips and Spencer Sherman. Additionally, one Community Mindfulness Practice per week incorporates a focus on social justice, which allows students to learn how to apply mindfulness to advocating for social change in their communities.

For those unfamiliar with mindfulness or meditation, each Community Mindfulness Practice lasts one hour and begins with a short dharma talk. These talks span approximately five minutes and introduce the topic of mindfulness meditation to students, outlining what to expect. The next 15-20 minutes consist of a meditation where the community expert guides you through the process, allowing you to expand your mindfulness skills. Finally, the hour is wrapped up with a discussion about the experience, whether it was good or bad and how it personally affected those who participated.

Any and all students interested in mindfulness are welcome to join Health & Wellness in these Community Mindfulness Practices on Tuesdays in the SRB Student Conference Room from 1:05-1:50 p.m. or Fridays in South Hall, Room 1632 from 1-2 p.m. The events are a secular, safe space for all to come and enjoy an hour of tranquil reflection and discussion. Light snacks and beverages will also be provided.

These Community Mindfulness Practices are a great resource for any student looking for a way to improve their mental, emotional or physical well-being. I encourage all students to leave their predispositions at the door and see what mindfulness can do for you. It truly is for everyone.

Carly Bertolozzi is an intern for UCSB’s Health and Wellness Programs.