Student Mindfulness for Depression
As indicated by a study conducted on mindfulness-based intervention for student depression, a research team discovered that university students across the globe are experiencing higher levels of mental health issues and distress than ever before. The study also investigated the increasing promise of mindfulness-based interventions, including virtual community programmes, workshops provided on campus and mindfulness taught by apps. All these interventions, which address the high student-to-counsellor ratio and geographical issues, are scientifically backed methods to reduce perceived stress and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. When participants in Mindfulness Virtual Community Programmes were compared against a control group on a waiting list, there was significant stress reduction.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness may sound like a convoluted term. Yet, mindfulness is as simple as being conscious or aware of sensations, thoughts, and feelings. Taking a moment in the midst of a chaotic schedule to notice the world around you and your inner monologue is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to improve mental health. Many people go through their lives on autopilot and leave little room for reflection – especially with the increasing number of distractions around us. How often have you put a TV show or a film on and then instantly reached for your phone to scroll simultaneously?
In our modern digital era, we rarely get the opportunity for mindfulness or awareness. When mindfulness is achieved, it increases the ability to calmly and rationally be present and become grounded. The phrase “you are not your thoughts or feelings” may seem like a difficult concept to grasp for non-practitioners of mindfulness. Yet, you can gain a greater sense of perspective by being aware of feelings and thoughts instead of blindly reacting to them.
The best way to achieve a state of mindfulness is to engage in a guided mindfulness meditation, which will teach you the principles of mindfulness. Many people believe that meditation is not for them because they struggle to completely clear their minds when they close their eyes, as they often get distracted by the noises happening around them or thoughts.
Mindfulness meditation doesn’t require a blank slate in your mind. Instead, it requires you to focus on one thing, such as a mantra or your breath and improve your ability to focus on one thing at a time. When your mind wanders, note where you have wandered to recentre yourself in your meditative practice.
In time, with enough practice, your ability to sharpen your focus will get easier. In the meantime, whenever you pull yourself back into your relaxation, you will be making progress.
The Five Key Principles of Mindfulness in Meditation
Mindfulness requires you to be an impartial witness. For example, if you practice mindfulness meditation and remember how much work you need to do tomorrow, note the thought and feeling and let it go. Or if while you are meditating, you can hear your flatmate stirring their cup of tea obnoxiously loud, find awareness to your reactive stream, then let it go.
Patience is a Virtue
When tensions run high, it is easy to forget that patience is a virtue. Sometimes, things need to be allowed to unfold in their own time without the need for having complete control of a situation. This goes for when you are trying to relax into a mindful state and in every other area of your life where not everything goes to plan with perfect timing.
Stay Curious and Receptive
Entering a new field or experience away from the comfort of our expertise that can become our ruts provides the opportunity to be receptive to new possibilities. While you’re finding your feet in the mindfulness field, keep an open and curious mind.
The goal of mindfulness is to be here with yourself – right now, as things are. Allow thoughts, feelings and sensations to unfold without the desire or compulsion to change them in the here and now.
Our minds don’t always know what is best for us. Sometimes, they can get stuck on thoughts which can lead to rumination and excessive spirals of despair. Teach your mind how to let things go by noting what it is trying to push into your perception and then returning to the present moment.
How Mindfulness-Based Interventions Combat Depression
The NHS regularly advocates mindfulness to help with stress, depression, and anxiety after multiple studies have proven it is beneficial for the majority. However, for some individuals, it is not as effective; in some circumstances, it can exacerbate feelings of depression and unease. If this is the case for you, reach out to your local care provider or student wellbeing services, who can offer additional support. For some people, for mindfulness to be effective, it needs to be paired with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or talking therapy, which will help depression sufferers to get to the root cause of their depression before they can overcome it with the guidance of a professional.
One of the main reasons why student mindfulness for depression is so effective is its tendency to pull us into the present, which limits the time spent worrying about how things went wrong in the past or feeling depressed when looking ahead to the future without a clear view of bright possibilities. People going through difficult circumstances will have undoubtedly heard that they should focus on doing things one step at a time or take things day by day; the same principles apply to mindfulness or awareness. It is easy to get consumed by terrifying possibilities in the future or fixate on every regret. However, clarity and perspective can be gained by being aware of your thoughts and feelings instead of being engrossed in them or acting through them.
How Students Can Engage in Student Mindfulness Interventions for Depression
Download a Mindfulness App
Mindfulness apps, such as Calm, Headspace and Aura, are some of the best ways for mindfulness novices to start practising their mindfulness skills through meditations and exercises, such as mindfulness breathing. Most self-care apps are available on a seven-day free trial basis and in standard free versions. Students can also take advantage of the 85% discount on Headspace monthly and annual plans.
Self-Care Apps developed for emotional well-being are a great way to start your journey into mindfulness, but for mindfulness to be truly effective, you will also want to carry it through into your day-to-day life. Rather than letting mindfulness be something you engage with for 10 minutes while staring at your phone.
Bring Mindfulness into Your Daily Activities
Whether you are walking to your next lecture, preparing food for your next meal, or engaging in a creative hobby, such as painting or playing an instrument, get into the habit of bringing yourself into the present moment. Bringing yourself into the present will help you to become rooted in the sensations you are currently experiencing. By making the simple decision to stay present, mindful, and aware, you will enhance your ability to regulate your mood. For example, if you are cooking your favourite meal, focus on preparing the ingredients and anticipating how much you will enjoy the meal. By doing this, you are creating a barrier between the depressive thoughts that often epitomise depression. For students who love being active, mindfulness movement may be more beneficial than meditation or other more sedentary activities. In addition to the mental health boost that running or yoga exercises bring, they are also a great way of focusing on the present, as you bring awareness to your posture, breath, and how it feels for your body to be in motion.
Connect with Nature
Forest bathing started as a popular well-being trend in Japan before making its way around the world as one of the best ways to practice mindfulness. There is also a substantial body of international research which indicates that spending time in nature – mindfully – is a way to enhance mental health, reduce stress, improve mood, boost energy levels, and sharpen focus. There are free forest bathing group walks in London regularly where students can get together with like-minded people for a spot of forest bathing. It is just as easy to go it alone and take advantage of the benefits of forest bathing.
Head to a wooded area with the sole intent of experiencing nature. Keep your phone out of sight and out of mind – you aren’t here to take pictures; you are here to experience nature and escape the stresses and strains of metropolitan living. Engage as many senses as possible while out in nature. Notice the breeze or the sun on your skin; listen to the rustle of the leaves or bird song; touch the bark of trees; notice what you can smell and focus on what you can see. Many parks in Central London will allow you to connect with nature, including Hampstead Heath, Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens.