Life can be stressful for students, especially in the run up to exams. In a busy, interconnected world, it’s all too easy to lose focus. Routines build up over time and students go through life on autopilot, going through the motions.

However, after prolonged periods of routine we find it difficult to snap back to reality and live in the present. We are less likely to appreciate our surroundings or even our own wellbeing. This also makes us more vulnerable to illness, anxiety and stress.

What is mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of drawing focus back to the present, improving our self-awareness – particularly when it comes to emotions.

Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment:

“It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour. An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs. Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment. It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.”

Mind over matter

Life as a student can be tough, whether you are writing papers, prepping for exams or performing on stage. You are required to use high levels of cognitive control, emotional regulation and self-awareness.

Training yourself to be more mindful will help you develop the necessary tools to remain calm, maintain your attention and focus better. It begins with daily breathing exercises. By taking the time each day to concentrate on your breathing and meditate, you will develop a greater awareness of your own thoughts and feelings, which can help support your growth in the long run.

Exhaustive research has proven the efficacy of mindfulness. Evidence shows that mindfulness practitioners’ performance improves and that they experience greater resiliency and reduced anxiety. Studies have shown that students who were trained in mindfulness were more resilient to stressful situations and had better problem-solving skills, memory and mood.

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