A couple weeks ago we talked about ways to deal with the stress of final exams, and one of these was through meditation.
Maybe the word meditation makes you think of a monk sitting somewhere high in the Himalayas and chanting “om.” Uh, yeah...that’s not the kind of meditation we’re talking about.
Simply put, meditation is mindfulness. It’s being present in the moment and focusing your mind on just one thing. Of course, that’s not so easy in today’s fast-paced, distraction-filled world. But it is possible, and the benefits are many.
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to relieve stress and help you relax. In addition to its many health benefits — lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, boosts your immune system — meditation has been shown to improve your focus and memory, which can be especially helpful during finals. According to Kevin Purdy of lifehacker.com, “meditation can actually exercise your brain's ‘muscles’ to increase focus, and has been shown to lower stress and increase forgiveness among college students who take up the practice.”
So how do you do it?
First you want to find a quiet spot where you can sit and know you won’t be bothered. This could be your dorm room, the library, or even somewhere out on campus. Just make sure you won’t get interrupted. And turn off your phone for a few minutes, too. (Don’t worry. You’ll be O.K.)
Next, get comfortable. Sit on a pillow on the floor or maybe in a chair. Relax your arms and hands. Just make sure you’re in a position you can hold for several minutes without any discomfort.
Now focus on your breathing. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. And try to breath with your belly instead of your lungs. Belly breathing enables you to get a deeper, more satisfying breath. If your mind starts to wander, that's all right; just come back to your breath again to regain your focus.
Believe it or not, that’s it. It won’t be easy at first, but just start with a few minutes and then gradually work your way up. The idea is to quiet your mind for just a few minutes every day. Start small and be sure to make it a habit. If you do, you’ll learn to be more focused and present in the moment. And, hopefully, it will help you do better on your finals, too.
If you want, you can even download some free guided meditations online. There are also some great apps out there you can download on your smartphone.