Why you should incorporate mindfulness into your life


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Laura Evenson, Opinion Editor

What is mindfulness, and how can it help CLC students? Mindfulness is our basic ability to be fully present, aware of our surroundings, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on. What does mindfulness have to do with being a college student? Surprisingly, it has quite a bit to do with academic success. Did you know mindfulness can improve concentration?

Larry Starzec is a CLC Professor of English who teaches English 121 and taught the class with a mindfulness theme for many years, before COVID. In this class, he shared with me what the themed composition class entailed. I was all ears – two of my favorite things together as one!

Professor Starzek explained that mindfulness has its origins in Buddhist meditation. It gives attention to the moment and nurtures greater awareness, acceptance, and clarity. He felt that reflection through writing is one form of mindfulness because as you are writing, you are also giving it dedicated focus. The unique thing about his course is that it included a physical and mental engagement. I especially enjoyed hearing about the five-minute breathing exercise at the beginning of each class. I can’t begin to imagine the positive difference that would make compared to other courses where we dive right in.

Meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand. Meditation is the practice of concentrating on one thought or element. When you begin, you focus on your breathing – in and out. You acknowledge it and then let it go when you have a thought. You can count 1, 2, 3, 4 as you take a deep breath and then another 1, 2, 3, 4 as you release the breath. You can go back to one and repeat. You are exercising your mind to keep coming back to the present thought. Professor Starzec explained that because of the mindful way he opens each class, his students reported they were more present and centered, and he saw more positive participation. He smiled as he recalled the overwhelming number of students who loved the class. I can completely understand why!

I was lucky enough to gain further insight into mindfulness and meditation benefits from current CLC student Ruben Enriquez. He said he uses this in his daily life and has done extensive research on the topic. He described how we are constantly being rushed and how the bustle of our daily lives as college students can inherently create other problems, including sleep issues, stress, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and memory loss. I think this is especially true in regards to the consequences of COVID.

“Meditation means to dissolve the invisible walls in our minds.

— Ruben Enriquez

He indicated meditation and mindfulness can also reduce muscle tension. Ruben explained that the biggest and most apparent perk is reducing stress. The U.S. National Library of Medicine conducted research and testing that showed it reduced cortisol levels in the blood, suggesting it can lower stress, as cortisol is a hormone released in response to stress. Doing this regularly helps you feel calmer, more relaxed, and more focused. Because of their findings, they concluded it might also decrease weight gain and decrease the risk of heart-related diseases. 

The New England Journal of Medicine says you must meditate for a minimum of twelve to fifteen minutes to get its health benefits. We are faced with a choice. Finding those minutes seems to have such a positive impact. Why would we not try this?

According to neuroscience research at Berkeley, mindfulness practices “dampen activity in our amygdala and increase the connections between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. Both of these parts of the brain help us be less reactive to stressors and recover better from stress when we experience it.”  Equally as important, meditation can improve memory and attention. You can not only relieve stress mentally, but you can also release stress with the body at a cellular level.

CLC itself offers a six-week course to receive a certification in meditation. You can learn how to intentionally train your attention and concentration, learn meditation techniques and see firsthand, with guidance, how meditation can be used to reduce stress and support overall health. CLC also offers a series of online guided meditations through the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) department. 

I feel like we can all benefit from this, and it can be a fun way to spend time together and grow with friends and family. We all need to help ourselves and others succeed, and meditation can help many people navigate their lives positively and successfully during our time at CLC.