What exactly is mindfulness?

The official definition of mindfulness is “a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention (actively) only on the present, with purpose, and without judgment.”

Mindfulness is a state of being when your body and mind are in the same place at the same time. More specifically, this means noticing what is happening inside your mind and in your body, and being aware of what is happening around you without reacting to it.

I experienced the lack of mindfulness this morning when I was working on an abstract that was due today. I started writing it at 9:30 am. After 10 minutes, I got a text message from a friend and I replied to it. Then I remembered that I needed to respond to an email and I sent the reply. Then I felt hungry and had a snack while texting my friend back and forth. Finally, at about 10:30, I started working on the abstract again and made some progress until I got an email from a colleague who was trying to schedule a meeting. I responded to that email but I did not stop there, I started reading other emails. Now it is noon, and I am still working on this abstract. I think you get the picture. I finally finished the abstract and submitted it at 1:00 pm. If you have experienced anything like this, you (and me) need to practice being more mindful.

As college students, you might be thinking how can I possibly be present with everything I have going on.

Well, I have good news for you. I promise you that if you practice mindfulness, when you study for your exams, you will spend less time studying (this means more time to sleep, which is always a great idea) and you will be more productive. So how about trying this simple exercise. When you are studying, try to be as mindful as you can. How? By turning off your cell phone, any notifications on your laptop (including email notifications), and try to fully focus on what you are studying. If you study in study groups, encourage your classmates to do the same. For every hour of full mindfulness, you can reward yourself for 5-10 minutes (not half hour) of other activities. I recommend getting up and walking around or having a snack while listening to your favorite music.

If you practiced this exercise of mindfulness, please share your experiences with me.

In addition, to be more successful academically, mindfulness has other benefits such as:

  • Stress reduction
  • Reduction in anxious thoughts
  • Improvements to working memory
  • Ability to focus attention
  • Less emotional reactivity
  • Relationship satisfaction

We will talk about some of these benefits in future blogs. For now, take a deep breath and practice mindfulness while you are studying.