Keep calm with mindful meditating

As college students know, stressful assignments and long hours of study can take a toll on the body and mind. But there is a way to help relieve stress and get anyone back on track, and all it takes is a relatively simple process of meditation. Stephanie Nash, who professionally teaches meditation, describes it as a practice that helps people achieve inner balance mentally, physically and emotionally. She has been practicing meditation since 1998, and is the founder of Mindfulness Arts, a program specifically designed to help people find their inner peace.

There are many benefits that come with meditating, both physically and psychologically. According to Nash, proper meditation can lead to sensory clarity, improved concentration, and reduced stress and muscle tension.

A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Hypertension has proven that forms of meditation can also reduce blood pressure and other possible heart complications. Since it is proven to calm nerves, meditation has also been known to help with stage fright, anxiety disorders and certain phobias.

“The increased ability to cope with stress is probably one of the main reasons that people choose to learn meditation.” says Nash. She has become especially interested in helping people who are dealing with stress, acute and chronic pain, and eating disorders.

There are many forms of meditation used today, such as walking meditation and mindfulness meditation, most commonly practiced by Buddhists. There are also other active forms, such as tai chi and yoga. Creating certain types of artwork are also considered a form as well, because it helps relax the body and calm the mind.

“When a person meditates, there is a decrease in restless thinking and the tendency to worry,” says Jennifer Pastiloff, a private yoga instructor, and the creator of Manifestation Yoga.

Because meditation helps to decrease stress, it can help students sleep better at night. A report by Medical News Today showed that 68 percent of students are kept awake at night by the stresses of school and life, and 20 percent of them struggle to sleep at least once a week.

“When I was in college, I think I hardly ever slept, and it created anxiety,” Pastiloff says. “Meditation aids in sleep, which is so important.”

For those who are just starting out, there are three simple steps that will get anyone right on track.

Step 1: Find a quiet, peaceful environment to meditate. This can be any place like a bedroom, living room, backyard, or even a park. Create a calm and comfortable atmosphere by turning off all electronic devices and putting aside anything that might be distracting. If indoors, put on any music that brings serenity to help set the mood for reflection.

Step 2: Prepare props and find a comfortable position. Using cushions, pillows, or yoga mats can be very helpful. Once you are ready, sit up straight and close your eyes to begin.

Step 3: Breathe and listen. This is the most important step. Breathe slowly, focusing on the sound. Listening to peaceful music may also be helpful. If you find that your mind wanders, slowly refocus back on your breath and start again. Do this for a minimum of five minutes.

By meditating a few times a week, students will notice improved focus and reduced stress.“I’m imagining that having more concentration, like the ability to put you focus where you want, when you want, and for as long as you want, would be helpful [to students],” says Nash.