Mindfulness is all the rage these days. Why? The practice can help you ease stress and get more enjoyment out of everyday activities. When was the last time you genuinely savored a slice of pizza or just basked in the sun? When you’re caught up in a busy college schedule, sometimes you forget to stop and savor each moment—or why it matters to do so. Here are a few ways to slow down and focus on being more present in your life.
1. Take time for meals
Do you regularly eat in front of your laptop? If so, you're not taking the time to appreciate the way food nourishes your body. You're not a car, so don’t treat food like it’s just unenjoyable fuel. When it’s lunchtime, shut down your computer and head to the cafeteria. Take small portions of different foods and fill half your plate with nourishing fruits and veggies in a variety of shades. Slow down and thoroughly chew as you eat, savoring the flavors on your tongue. You may find that you feel full more quickly when you focus on your meal. This mindfulness tip can help enjoy what you’re eating and stave off the dreaded Freshman 15!
2. Go out in nature
When you walk to class, lift your face to the sun and really feel it on your skin. Notice the way the warmth gets your blood flowing to your cheeks. Breathe the fresh air. Spending time in nature is one of the best ways to reduce stress in college. Research shows it could improve your concentration and short-term memory as well.
3. Make your dorm a sanctuary
Other than the classroom, you spend more time in your dorm room than anywhere else in college. Why not make it a proper home away from home? Print out treasured photographs and buy pretty frames for them at your local dollar store. If you and your roommate have different sleep schedules, invest in a bed tent to shut out their light, and invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Familiar smells can also contribute to your sense of calm in your dorm, so get yourself an essential oil diffuser and start mixing scents that bring you peace—just make sure to discuss it with your roommate first in case they’re sensitive to smells and you need to use it when they’re not around.
4. Practice active listening
When your roommate tells you about the new guy she met, do you respond with a muffled "uh-huh" while scrolling through Twitter? If so, you're missing the opportunity for genuine human connection. Take the time to practice active listening when you're chatting with friends. By putting your phone down and becoming fully present in the conversation, you’ll create a deeper bond.
5. Try a new activity
Stress and uncertainty are common feelings for many college students—in fact, more than 25% of students struggle with mental health during college. Mindfulness is a natural way to remove yourself from those mental challenges and engage in the moment. One simple way to practice mindfulness in college is to try something new. The very novelty of a new experience brings your full attention to the task at hand. Go ahead and sign up for that indoor rock-climbing club you saw advertised in the student center. Try a new yoga class, attend a speaking event, or join an intramural sports league. College is your time to spread your wings, so keep your mind open to new experiences!
6. Engage all your senses
A great way to reduce stress and practice mindfulness in college is to stop and take a deep breath whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed. Try the following exercise: first focus on your breathing, inhaling for a count of four, pausing, then exhaling completely for a count of six. Repeat this several times until you feel your heart rate and anxiety decrease. Then pay attention to each sense in turn. What do you hear? Smell? What do you feel if you perform a quick body scan—are you holding tension in particular areas? Use your senses to root yourself in the moment and remind yourself that while your anxieties are in your head, the world around you is more real.
7. Create a nighttime ritual
You need adequate sleep if you want to control your stress levels in college. Creating a bedtime ritual signals to your brain that it's time to wind down. Stow your laptop out of sight from your place in bed so it’s less tempting and turn your alarm clock toward the wall to avoid glancing at it if sleep proves elusive at first.
Practicing mindfulness is an easy, inexpensive way to reduce stress in college and develop lifelong mental health habits. Be sure to follow these tips to get the most out your moments that matter most.
Find more advice to get the most out of your college experience in our Student Life section.