Mental health is becoming a concern for students nowadays. Exam stress, failed relationships, and societal pressure take a toll on many students. As a result, depression and suicide rates are at a rise among young adults.
Sports and physical exercise are recommended for students to stay physically and mentally fit. But there’s something else that offers tremendous benefits for the body and the mind: meditation. More and more people are turning toward meditation for inner peace and clarity of thought.
Assuming you know nothing about meditation, this article will tell you all about its techniques and benefits for students.
- What is meditation?
- 10 Benefits of meditation for students
- 5 Meditation techniques for students
What is meditation?
Meditation is an ancient practice that involves training our attention by focusing the mind on one thing. It doesn’t teach you how to control the mind or stop thinking. Rather, it teaches you how to detach from the stories in your head. Once you start to do that, the mind also starts listening to you.
There are many techniques of meditation, but the central goal in all of them is to calm the mind. For example, if you decide to meditate on your breath, you try to be aware of every inhalation and exhalation. In case of a mantra, you mindfully recall the mantra in your head. Or if it’s an image, you close your eyes and hold the image in your mind as vividly as you can. There are also techniques where you try to be mindful with your eyes open.
10 Benefits of meditation for students
Meditation offers short-term and long-term benefits for everyone—children, students, adults, or seniors. It contributes to our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Here, we’ll talk about some of these benefits that are especially important for students.
1. Improves test scores
How about that for starters! Meditation can help you score better on your tests. It increases your focus and decreases anxiety, so you always give your best without panicking. Since it also improves your attention, meditation is a terrific way to enhance cognitive function. It makes you smarter and more observant.
A study published in Psychological Science included 48 undergraduate students. They were divided into two groups: one taking a mindfulness class and the other a nutrition class. The researchers found that the mindfulness group experienced a decrease in mind wandering. Their GRE comprehension scores also improved, along with their working memory.(1)
2. Increases concentration
Focusing your attention on a single object is one of the central ideas of meditation. So it’s not surprising that meditation increases your focus and attention. When you practice it, not only can your mind stay on a task for longer, but it’s also easier for you to jump back from distractions.
Studies reveal that regular meditation improves your attention span. But the researchers also noted that this benefit would not sustain if they discontinued their practice. That is to say, you should keep doing meditation to keep enjoying the benefits.(2)
Another study found that eight weeks of meditation training improves cortical thickness in the hippocampus. It’s the area that controls learning and memory.(3)
3. Enhances creativity
Research shows that non-meditators have more cognitive rigidity than regular meditators. This means those who meditate have a greater ability to solve problems in innovative ways.(4) They are also more resilient to skepticism and setbacks than non-meditators.(5)
Regular meditation improves two major ingredients of creativity: convergent and divergent thinking.(6) Also, you don’t have to meditate for years to enjoy the benefits. Research involving 121 students reveals that even short, 10-minute sessions make us more creative. So it might be a good idea to meditate for some time before diving into that new home project!
4. Sharpens the mind
The mind is the most important part of our being. If you’re a student, you’ll be glad to know that meditation offers lots of benefits for the mind. A sharper mind means better learning and retaining abilities, especially for a student.
Researchers have studied the neurophysiological connection between breathing and sharpness of mind. Studies show that respiration affects noradrenaline levels in the brain. It’s a chemical messenger released when we’re curious, challenged, or focused. If produced at the right level, it can help the brain develop new, powerful connections.(7)
The study concludes that meditation and other breath-focused practices make the mind healthier. They increase your attention span and enhance reaction times, making you smarter.
5. Relieves depression
Depression among college students is a serious issue. Financial worries, failed relationships, and exam pressure contribute to risk factors of depression. Meditation is an excellent tool for learning to healthily cope with the difficulties of student life.
In a study, a group of university students participated in a 6-week meditation program. After the training, they showed a reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms. The cool part is that the researchers followed up after 6 and 12 months. They found that the students who continued practicing scored low for symptoms of depression.(8) This means the more you make meditation a part of your life, the more long-lasting benefits you’ll enjoy.
Studies also suggest that meditation could be even more beneficial than physical exercise for managing depression. This study involved 181 undergraduate nursing students.(9)
6. Enhances emotional well-being
Some forms of meditation, like loving-kindness and Tonglen, resolve our emotional issues. They make us a better person by improving emotion processing and increasing compassion. Other meditation techniques also contribute to our emotional well-being.
Studies show that transcendental meditation increases emotional intelligence and decreases perceived stress. For students, it promises an increase in skills like adaptability and intrapersonal awareness.(10)
Apart from that, meditation also enhances self-management and self-control. It weakens neural connections in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear and anger.(11) At the same time, it strengthens connections in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for logic and rational thought.(12)
7. Increases confidence and self-esteem
Your social confidence and self-esteem need to be high to excel as a student. Meditation resolves our emotional issues, improving our relationship with ourselves. When you know who you are and what you want, it becomes easier to have respect and stand up for yourself.
Regular meditation also stops negative self-talk by reducing activity in the default mode network (DMN).(13) The DMN is active when the mind is left to its own devices. It’s responsible for wandering thoughts about the past or the future. These thoughts often lead to nothing productive and only cause worry, anxiety, and sadness.
8. Helps overcome addictions
Unfortunately, drug, alcohol, and other substance abuse is common among teenagers and students. It’s the biggest factor that can ruin any student’s life.
But mow does meditation help you overcome and prevent addictions? As we’ve seen, it reduces stress, which is one of the most common addiction triggers. It also increases your self-control so that you can say no to unhealthy habits.
Studies agree that regular meditation reduces anti-social behavior and substance abuse. Often, it’s even more effective than conventional drug prevention programs. To learn more about it, you can read the full article on how you can use meditation to quit smoking.
9. Improves physical health
Physical fitness is just as important as mental agility. Combined with exercise, meditation provides exceptional physical, mental, and emotional development. Exercise strengthens your body, and meditation prepares the mind for recovery. It also helps the body work against pain and discomfort.(14)
Meditation improves blood flow and strengthens the immune system. It also balances your blood pressure and heart rate, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.(15)
Lastly, we all know how crucial sleep is to maintain a healthy body and mind. Regular meditation improves your sleep quality and patters. It keeps you from tossing and turning in bed and helps you fall asleep quickly.(16)
10. Reduces stress
In modern times, stress has become a norm for students. Pressure from parents, society, and exams take a toll on the mental health of students. Meditation offers relaxation from the hectic lifestyle of today’s students. It reduces stress and helps them handle difficulties without losing their cool.
Meditation apps are also beneficial, as we’ll discuss in the next section. A popular app named ‘Calm’ was found to reduce stress and increase self-compassion in stressed college students.(17) In another study, 30 medical students practiced meditation for four days. Their body had decreased levels of cortisol—a stress hormone—in just four days.(18)
5 Meditation techniques for students
There are many meditation techniques you can practice. They are all designed to calm the monkey mind but affect the brain differently. Here, we’ll discuss the most useful meditation techniques for students.
How to sit for meditation
Before we get to the techniques, It’s helpful to note how crucial your posture is. Here I’ve included basic instructions on how to sit during your practice. But If you want a detailed guide for posture with images, read the full article on meditation posture.
- Spread a mat or place a cushion on the floor. Make sure the room is quiet so that you can focus your mind.
- Sit cross-legged on the ground. Crossing your legs is preferred, but if you can’t do that, sitting on a chair will also work.
- Keep your neck and spine in line. Look straight ahead and don’t slouch. Your back should be erect, but not stiff.
- Rest your hands in your lap. Keep one hand on top of the other, palms facing upward. You can also intertwine your fingers and drop them in front of you.
- You can either keep your eyes half open or close them fully. I suggest you close them when you sit for your daily practice. Though some practices, like trataka, requireyou to keep them open.
1. Trataka or Still Gazing
The stillness of the eyes directly affects the stillness of the mind. If you want to try it, pick a spot around you and gaze at a point without blinking or moving your eyes. You’ll notice that your thoughts slow down, along with the time. This is the deep connection between the body and the mind.
Trataka is an ancient Yogic practice designed to take your concentration to the next level. It promotes stillness of the eyeballs, which makes your mind calm and focused. Not only that, but it also helps in treating and resolving several eye disorders like weak eyesight. To benefit from trataka, do it every day for six weeks straight.
How to do it:
- Set a timer on your smartphone or alarm clock. Start with 5 minutes and slowly move up as you become more comfortable with the process.
- Sit in the posture described above.
- Light a candle in front of you at about three feet. You can also place any other object than a candle. I recommend you either have a candle or make a half-an-inch black circular mark on a plain white paper.
- Make sure the candle or object is at your eye-level. Your head should be straight, so make sure you don’t have to look up or down to stare at the object.
- Watch it, unblinking. Stare at the middle of the candle’s flame without blinking. This is the actual practice.
- Bring the mind back if it wanders. Try to be aware of your thoughts and bring the mind back if it gets distracted.
The essence of Trataka lies in keeping the eyes and the body perfectly still. So sit like a rock and don’t move. It’s also important to not blink at all. Tears will roll down your eyes, but you must try your best to keep them open. In the beginning, you won’t be able to control it, and that’s okay. The ability to keep your eyes open will improve with practice.
2. Mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation is the most popular form of meditation. Its transformative qualities are remarkable, especially for students. It gives you a break from the stressful environment of school or college.
Focusing on your breath is a simple and effective way of practicing mindfulness. Other ways to practice would be focusing on a sound or bodily sensation.
How to do it:
- Set aside 10-20 minutes per day. You can use your smartphone or an alarm clock.
- Sit in the posture described above.
- Focus your attention on your breath. Let the body breathe on its own; don’t try to control it. Just watch every inhalation and exhalation. Feel every breath going on and coming out. Notice the sensations at your nostrils or the rise and fall of your belly.
- When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath. It’ll happen a lot, so don’t get frustrated. Trust me, there’s only one worst mediator on the planet, and it’s not you.
- As with trataka, you must not move during the session. Take your time to find the best position, but once you settle down, don’t move. Your mind will tell you that if you don’t adjust your position right away, your buttocks will be damaged for life, but it’s not the case.
This is the simple technique of breath-focused meditation. If you want detailed instructions with tips, read the complete guide to mindfulness meditation.
What’s great about mindfulness is that you can practice it anytime, anywhere. Whether it’s a lunch break or a walk home, noticing your breath, even with eyes open, calms the mind.
3. Loving-kindness meditation
Loving-kindness is an ancient Buddhist practice that aims to instill kindness within us. “Loving-kindness” means a sense of friendliness and compassion. In this meditation, we send loving energy toward ourselves and others.
It helps you overcome anger, bitterness, and hate. Practicing it regularly leads to improved sociability and better relationships. It also increases your social confidence, a valuable skill for any college student.
How to do it:
- Set aside 10-15 minutes for this practice. There are stages in it, and each stage can be given 2-3 minutes.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Imagine yourself sitting in front of you and repeat a few positive phrases to yourself like:
- May I be well
- May I be happy
- May I be healthy
- May I be free from suffering
- Wish yourself well and feel compassion for yourself. Focus on the feeling of loving-kindness in your chest.
- Then, repeat the process for a loved one. It can be your child or even your pet. Repeat the phrases for them and radiate heartfelt compassion for them.
- Now, cultivate loving-kindness toward a stranger. Wish them well in the same way and feel the compassion radiating from you.
- Here’s the difficult part: cultivate compassion for a “difficult” person. It can be someone you have long-standing conflicts with or someone who annoys you. Imagine the enmity dissolving and becoming friends with that person. Radiate loving-kindness for them and wish them well.
- Finally, repeat the process for all sentient beings.
For the full guide detailing each step, read the article on loving-kindness meditation. There, I’ve also talked about the importance of cultivating loving-kindness for “bad” people.
4. Walking meditation
Just because you’re not sitting with eyes closed, doesn’t mean you can’t be meditating. It’s also possible to meditate while walking. Walking meditation increases awareness and also keeps the body healthy. It’s an excellent way to practice mindfulness on the go.
Studies have been conducted on young adults exploring the benefits of walking meditation. Researchers have found that it reduces anxiety and alleviates depression symptoms.(19) So you can practice meditation even while taking a walk in the campus. Cool, isn’t it?
To do walking meditation, find an open space where you can stroll around for a while. Join your hands together either behind your back or in front of you—don’t swing your arms. Lift your heel, then toe, and bring the foot forward. Notice how the body’s weight shifts as you do this. Place the heel on the ground, then the toe. Repeat this with the other foot to move forward mindfully.
5. Guided meditations
Guided meditations are wonderful if you want to just go with the flow. Remember that silent meditation—where you meditate by yourself—offers the most benefits. But guided recordings are good for familiarizing yourself with new techniques.
You can find many guided meditations for topics such as stress, anger, and loneliness. This is great for when you’re feeling overwhelmed and want to address some inner issues. All you have to do is turn on the recording and follow the instructions.
Apart from YouTube, meditation apps are another source of guided sessions. They have courses to teach you meditation techniques and soundscapes for relaxation. Read this article to know more about how meditation apps work.
Meditation offers incredible benefits for students of any age. Trataka, walking, mindfulness, and other meditation practices improve the quality of our lives. The best thing is that you can learn meditation at home, and practicing it costs nothing.
Once you’re comfortable with the basic method of meditation, I recommend you read the article on the mental noting technique. It’ll help you take your practice to the next level. However, I believe you’ve already been bombarded with a lot of information here. So go ahead now and start your meditation journey today!
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