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The Headspace team tells us about the importance of mindfulness for students


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Headspace began in 2010 and has since brought mindfulness to millions of people via the increasingly popular app. But why is mindfulness important for students, and can it help us navigate through the numerous stresses that accompany university life?

Image Credit: Allinoch on Pixabay.

We speak to Sarah Romotsky, the Director of Healthcare at Headspace, one of the many people who work behind the scenes of the app that offers snippets of mindfulness meditation for a more happy, healthy way of life. Sarah had led a number of initiatives, bringing mindfulness to the forefront of modern medicine for well-being.

What is mindfulness?

Headspace advocates mindfulness meditation to achieve mindfulness, a way of living ‘which we are able to step back and be in the present moment in any situation’. They define mindfulness as “the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.”

On the importance of mindfulness for students, in particular, Sarah says: “Mindfulness and Headspace, in particular, have been shown to reduce stress and increase happiness.” Mindfulness, then, can be used as a ”tool” to combat the many aspects of student life that can often seem overwhelming and inescapable.

This is particularly prevalent for young people – the millennial burnout has recently propelled itself into the national conversation surrounding wellbeing. The ‘burnout’ is a symptom of the chronic stress and subsequent that is the entire opposite of mindfulness, preventing many young people from being able to relax or live in the present as a work-life balance becomes almost non-existent.

Perhaps feeling the effects of a burnout himself, co-founder of Headspace, Andy Puddicombe, left his sports science degree to become a Buddhist monk. Eventually ordained at a Tibetan monastery in the Indian Himalayas after 10 years, Andy learns the powerfulness of having a mindful lifestyle, which he has channelled into Headspace.

According to Sarah, mindfulness builds resilience, which can make our overwhelming mental to-do lists and burnouts seem far more manageable: “just 10 days of Headspace has been shown to increase resilience in college students.”

How is Headspace making a difference?

Many believe that we are amidst a ‘mental health crisis’ and Sarah believes that one of the reasons for this is that “mental health has been stigmatised as a topic that has not been discussed in the public dialogue enough”. Mental health is inextricably linked to overall health and wellness: Headspace endeavours to improve both simultaneously, by “normalising tools like meditation” as well as the conversation surrounding mental health issues, whether they are constant or temporary.

A shining example of this, and the sheer growth of mindfulness, and Headspace itself is their partnership with the NBA: “professional basketball players are using Headspace to train their minds to be the best athletes.” Sarah expands no this, saying that Headspace is “breaking new frontiers in the mental health landscape.”

Meditation, in particular, yoga, has started to become more mainstream through social media. However, Sarah believes that there are still misconceptions surrounding the practice: “The biggest misconception is that you have to start off with a large time commitment for meditation practice and this couldn't be further from the truth.”

She continues: “We recommend starting with a small goal, perhaps just three times a week, and Headspace offers meditation sessions as short as one minute long so you can find the right content that fits into your lifestyle. Of course, the true benefits of a meditation practice come with consistent use so once you get the hang of it, you can start increasing session duration or frequency in a way that makes sense for you.”

Utilising technology to make meditation more accessible

Image Credit: rawpixel on Pixabay.

Initially, it may seem somewhat ironic that Headspace achieves mindfulness and meditation through an app – with our phones comes the tie of emails and social media that seem difficult to escape from.

However, advocating a mindful world away from phones would be unrealistic for many, especially given that so many people live their lives through their phones now. So, Headspace has used technology as a channel to essentially achieve their mission – “to improve the health and happiness of the world”, “having our content available on technology makes it easier for people to access it at any time, in any location.”

Commenting further on this, co-founder Andy says: “the phone itself isn’t inherently bad: it is just a piece of metal and glass. It’s our relationship with our phones and technology that can make us feel overwhelmed at times”.

Finally, Sarah has some words of advice to university students who are suffering from university stresses or mental health issues: “You are not alone and there are so many tools that can help you. When I was a college student, I dealt with a lot of stress and anxiety trying to keep up with classes, a job, a social life, and familial responsibilities. I wish I had talked about it more with my friends because it turns out, they were all experiencing similar feelings. Use your community for support and find the right resources that work for you.”

So, next time the long list of emails to reply to seems overwhelming, know that you shouldn’t feel guilty for removing yourself from them for a while. Through meditation, choosing to be mindful in the present can pave the way for a more happy, healthy and resilient way of life.

Lead Image Credit: Allinoch on Pixabay.

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