Scholarly articles have suggested that a meditation routine reduces stress, and Michelle DuVal and Tiffany Martinez believe that meditation can be particularly helpful for students with this year’s added stressors.
DuVal, a meditation coach at the Mindful Center, said the reason that meditation is effective at reducing stress is because it can slow down your central nervous system.
A 2019 study from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association found a connection between stress and poor physical and mental health.
Duval elaborated by saying that “moderate” amounts of stress, which leads to central nervous stimulation, can be actively beneficial, but “extreme” amounts of stress can lead to harmful symptoms, such as disease progression and fatigue.
Martinez, a graduate student at the University of New Mexico and manager at Student Health and Counseling, spoke about activities that help her with stress reduction and other resources for UNM students.
“I am a graduate student myself, finishing my thesis to graduate in the fall, so my mind always feels like it is going a hundred miles per hour,” Martinez said, going on to say that working out is a meditative activity that helps her stay focused.
According to Martinez, meditation’s benefits include reduced stress, improved sleep and a lengthened attention span.
DuVal said that meditation has been clinically supported with improving general states of well-being, and people feel less anxiety and depression specifically when they meditate.
DuVal said that meditation can increase connections “within which we can more directly interact with our world,” adding that meditation helps individuals be more present in their relationships with others.
A 2020 study published in the journal Current Psychology found that meditation makes a person more likely to have positive experiences within their interpersonal relationships.
Martinez discussed a meditation exercise that helps her as a busy graduate student. She practices “grounding exercises,” wherein she chooses an item in the room and focuses on every facet of it, thereby practicing a mindful, active meditation.
DuVal also shared meditation tools to help busy people build meditation practices, such as “drop-ins,” an exercise where one focuses on their body, rather than focusing on any stressful thoughts that might arise.
“If you just imagine ... moving your mind into your body, what happens, in just a couple of seconds of doing that is the body ... tends to spontaneously soften,” DuVal said.
The insula, according to DuVal, is the part of the brain that detects physical sensations and helps process how the physical body feels.
“When we feel into our bodies, you stimulate the part of the brain called the insula, and that’s specifically the part of the brain that gets turned down when we’re in states of stress,” DuVal said.
DuVal said that stimulating the insula by focusing on the body is an effective way to give the mind “permission” to relax.
“We go from being externally focused to being internally focused,” DuVal said.
She also talked about the concept of a mindful breath, wherein “you move your awareness to the sensations of breath.”
DuVal said that taking five mindful breaths five times per day has the same impact on the central nervous system as “drop-ins” do, and neither of them require a large time commitment.
Insight Timer, a free meditation app, is another complementary resource for students who want to meditate, according to DuVal. The app features guided meditations of varying lengths posted by meditation instructors from around the world.
Sarah Bodkin is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @sarahbodkin4