Finals season might be a daunting time to try something new, but if you’re going to try anything to help you be successful during finals – try mindfulness.
It’s a practice, for sure, but even with one session, you brain will be shifting it’s patterns of worry and anxiety to paying more attention to the present moment with intention, without judgment, and with an attitude of acceptance.
You could start by focusing on how your breath feels, noticing that you’re feeling tired, noticing how the warm sun feels on your skin. You don’t need to do anything about your experience, you just need notice it and then simply turn your attention to whatever comes next.
If you want to do more, consider meditation. You do not have to be part of a special group to start a meditation practice. You can practice alone or with a group of friends.
- Find a comfortable place to sit, whether it’s in a chair, on a mat, on the floor, just wherever works best for you.
- Sit in a dignified way – not too ridged and not slouching.
- You can keep your eyes open or even half open. You can also close them if that’s comfortable. Just try to avoid falling asleep.
- Now, bring your attention to the sensation of your breath. Notice how the cool air feels as it enters through your nostrils.
- Now move your attention down to your chest and belly. Notice how the chest and belly expand out with each inhalation, and contracts or flattens out on the exhalation. See if you can count at least 5 exhalations.
- If you notice that your focus starts to drift away from your breath and to your thoughts, for example, just notice that this has happened and slowly, without any judgment, bring your full attention and awareness back to the sensation of the breath. Just be sure that you don’t beat yourself because your mind wandered
- Try and keep your attention on the breath for just 10 minutes. It’s not easy, but keep at it!
If it’s easier, you can do this with audio instead of written instructions.
You can do this as you’re walking between classes, or anywhere on campus, and no one has to know that you’re doing it (unless you want them to know).
- Bring your attention to your feet, and notice what it feels like to have them firmly on the ground. You may notice how your shoes and socks feel on your feet.
- While lifting each foot and leg off the ground, try to notice how it feels to lift your foot and leg into the air.
- While alternating each foot and leg, notice the experience of your weight shifting as you move forward.
- Bring your awareness to your upper body and pay attention to your arms as they swing and any other motion you feel in your upper body as you walk.
Moving Meditation for Individuals in a Wheelchair
Use a wheelchair? No problem! You can do this too!
- Bring your attention to your arms and hands as they move back and you get ready to push your wheels.
- You may notice how the muscles in your back squeeze together or how your shoulder muscles stretch.
- Notice what your hands feel as they grip your wheels.
- Finally, see what you experience as you start to push your wheels. You may feel the muscles in your biceps and triceps flexing and stretching. Don’t worry if you don’t notice this. Just bring your full attention to what you do feel.
You’re now on your way to having your own mindfulness practice. Now, go out there and start giving your attention to each moment! You never know what you might discover.
Originally posted in 2014, this post has been updated for clarity. In 2014, Dennis Carmody was an MPH candidate in the Health Behavior department at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and enjoying his summer practicum with the great folks at UNC Student Wellness.