No matter what you’re studying, there will be some points of your course where you will need high levels of cognitive control, emotional stability and self-awareness. Rather unhelpfully, it’s often when you’re striving so hard for those things that they’re harder to attain.
Mindfulness can help you manage the normal stresses of student life effectively, enabling you to remain calm, be able to focus and work in a way which is enjoyable, creative and productive.
Mindfulness is about being more aware of what is happening and having more choice on how to respond to life’s challenges. It is a skill we all have and can be improved through exercises and practice.
So, next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by life’s challenges try out one (or more) of these simple exercises…
Giving to someone else doesn’t have to be in the materialistic sense. It can be anything from something small like holding the door open for someone to something bigger like raising money for a charity, anything!
Here are some ideas of how you can help give to others:
1. Take part in ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ which is a scheme running on Friday 10th March for Wellbeing Week. Do anything kind for someone else and tell us about it via Twitter by tagging @NTU_SSC or #Trentkin. Have a look what everyone else has been doing and inspire others by sending yours!
2. Volunteer your time for a local organisation. It’s easy to think sympathetically about people worse off than yourself but how about actually taking the time to help them? There are schemes all over the country that can help support this, why not take a look at Trent Volunteers to kickstart your volunteering experience?
Exercise is a very common and well-practiced technique for combatting stress. Not only do you stay healthy but your body releases endorphins (good feelings) when you exercise which, in turn, make you feel happier and less stressed.
There are lots of simple ways you can stay active:
1. Walk. This is a nice easy one which you can complete at any time with no equipment and it starts with small changes. For example, if it is a nice day and it is possible, walk to work instead of public transport or driving. Or, instead of jumping in a lift to where you need to go, take the stairs!
2. Find an exercise that suits you. Try different exercises and find out what fits you best. Enjoy working out but don’t like the isolation of going to the gym alone? Join a workout class! Like working in a team? Find a team sport like football, cheerleading or hockey! Skip whilst you watch TV, go for a run, swim, the list is endless.
3. Yoga. This is an exercise that combines fitness with mindful thinking. It works at strengthening your core leaving you with a strong body and mind.
*If you fancy a free taster into the world of yoga, NTU Sport have a session on Tuesday 7th March, 11-12 (noon) in the City Sports Centre Studio. To book call 0115 848 4066 or drop by the Sports Centre reception.
Breathing or noticing each breath is a key action in mastering the art of meditation and it can have a profound impact on your thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Follow our guide to learn the basics of meditation:
1. Take a moment and sit in a chair with your feet on the floor and your hands in your lap and just breathe in and out through your nose. Close your eyes and focus on each breath. Notice each breath.
2. Now focus on where you can most clearly feel your breath. This could be your nostrils, chest, shoulders, anywhere. Just focus on that one point.
3. Now, what pace are you breathing at? Is it fast, shallow, long, calm? Notice that each breath is different. Notice the pauses in between breaths. You don’t need to change anything, you just need to notice.
4. When you breathe in, let’s call it the ‘in-breath’, think about a positive feeling that you would like to embody. It could be something like calm, in control, happy, relaxed… Imagine it as you breathe in.
5. On an ‘out-breath’ you’re working to breathe out the states that you don’t wish to embody like stress, anxiety, worry, negativity etc. So you’re breathing in positives and breathing out negatives.
After a while, you may find that your breath becomes steady and calm and you start to feel more relaxed. Notice that feeling and enjoy it.
When you come to open your eyes and rejoin the world, remember that your breath is always with you. You can activate this feeling of calm at any time by just taking a moment to focus on your breath.
Why not practice this exercise again the next time you feel overwhelmed?
It’s so easy to get carried away by the things that don’t work, cause you stress or by people and things that let you down. This can make you feel isolated or stimulate feelings of failure.
Often, when you’re feeling down or overwhelmed, it’s hard to think that there’s anything to appreciate in life. This simple exercise, practised regularly, can help remind you of life’s pleasures and help you connect to sources of strength.
It’s really simple and can be practiced anywhere; on the tram, in your room, in a classroom! Why not give it a go?
Simply, think of ten things you’re grateful for. They can be anything, just ten things!
You may find that a few things spring to mind straight away and that’s great. It may get a bit harder as you reach the higher numbers but persevere, there will be ten things!
No matter how large or small, the process of purposely seeking out areas of your life to be grateful for can help alleviate the feeling of overwhelming negativity.
It’s a very simple yet very effective exercise, definitely worth a couple of minutes of your time!
Simply, notice more.
We spend so much of our lives in autopilot mode, that it’s easy to miss the beauty, humour or contrast in life. Autopilot is useful (and vital) in many areas of our daily lives but occasionally taking a moment to notice an environment or an encounter can massively enrich your experience.
Here are a couple of ideas to get you started…
Mindful Walking: Next time your walking, notice your feet as they hit the ground. Notice the speed you’re walking at. Notice the weather. Notice how the air feels on your skin. Notice the sounds you can hear. Notice any smells you encounter. Notice any tastes. Notice what you can see. Notice what colours are around.
Mindful Eating: Next time you’re eating, spare a moment to really notice what you’re eating. What does it look like? What does it taste like? What does it feel like in your hands or on your tongue? What does it smell like? What sounds does it make as you eat it or unwrap it? Approach this practice with curiosity; imagine you’re eating this thing for the very first time.
These small exercises take no extra effort but will give you the opportunity to really connect with what you’re doing to notice more about the moment.
Like with anything new, mindfulness may take practice to perfect or know what’s right for you. This is where resilience comes in. It’s so important to keep trying until you find what works best for you!
The great thing about mindfulness exercises is there is no right or wrong way to do it. What may work for someone else might not work for you and visa versa.
Find what works for you, make it your own and enjoy it!