The best universities bet on mindfulness against stress

Stress can be a major problem and has devastating effects on students, who are under a lot of pressure for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, over the past decades a powerful tool appeared to fight it: mindfulness.

In this article we will see the example of the best universities in the world when it comes to using Mindfulness-based programs to reduce stress in students.

    What are the “academic stressors” facing college students?

    “Academic” stressors can be classified into two groups, which are as follows.

    Internal stressors

    Self-imposed pressureIn other words, the level at which each student sets the “bar” for effectiveness as well as their performance expectations.

    External stressors

    Situations in the environment that generate tensions and demand such as for example, exams, oral presentations, group practices, Difficulties in assimilating the content of the program, time management, lack of socialization with other classmates, reconciling work with studies to be able to pay them …

    What are the red flags of stress?

    Some of the symptoms are reflected in the body, have physical effects:

    • drowsiness, For lack of hours of sleep.
    • Insomnia or difficulty falling asleep.
    • Fatigue, fatigue.
    • Headache.
    • Stomach pain and / or irritable bowel syndrome.
    • Bruxism (tension in the jaws).

    • Back ache.
    • Muscle contractures.
    • Tachycardia or palpitations.
    • Increased or decreased appetite.
    • Frequent colds, due to a decrease in defenses.

    Other symptoms affect mood and cognitive and emotional aspects:

    • Constant agitation.
    • Sadness, discouragement.
    • Low motivation.
    • Lack of concentration or difficulty concentrating.
    • Difficulty thinking (staying blank or blocked).
    • Hyperactivity.
    • Frequent memory problems, forgetfulness or distractions.
    • irritability.
    • Fear of not meeting goals or expectations.
    • Frequent anxiety and / or the urge to cry.

    There is also a third type of symptoms that affect behavior:

    • Irritability, tendency to argue with others.
    • Isolation, need to be alone.
    • Using drugs to stay awake or sleep.
    • Increased consumption of coffee and / or tobacco.
    • Missing class.
    • Prioritize other activities over study.
    • Stop regularly practicing leisure or sports activities, out of reluctance, lack of energy or demotivation.

    How Does Mindfulness Help Students Cope Better with Stress?

    In recent years, mindfulness (translated from English as “mindfulness” or “mindfulness”) has become an effective tool proven by many scientific studies to reduce stress levels and increase resilience, of great help for improve the well-being of students.

    All the attention deliberately paying attention to what is happening, when it is happeningAs an impartial observer, without adding value judgments that alter our perception of reality, without running away from feelings, emotions or thoughts that may arise, even if they are unpleasant, it all adds up to a caring attitude. towards ourselves and towards others. This particular way of managing life has countless advantages, which could be summed up in four areas:

    • Performance in studies: More attention span, concentration and memory.
    • psychological well-being: Reduced stress and more resilience.
    • physical well-being: More body awareness and less pain.
    • Better interpersonal relationships, Improve empathy and compassionate attitude.

    Precisely by increasing the attention levels of the mind and body – a skill that is formed with the practice of mindfulness – students can become aware of their overall condition, preventing or regulating their stress with action. well-being of being seriously impaired.

    Practicing mindfulness is neither difficult nor complex: It consists of a series of attention, concentration, relaxation and meditation exercises, being enough to spend a few minutes a day creating the habit, so that its effects are more powerful and stable over time.

    It is very important that mindfulness training is done with a properly accredited instructor with extensive experience and personally committed to the practice. Keep in mind that mindfulness it requires practical and experiential learning, Based on everyone’s experience with the support of a qualified instructor.

      The world’s best universities are committed to mindfulness

      In recent years, the world’s most prestigious universities have implemented mindfulness programs to improve student performance, reduce anxiety, and increase resilience.

      The best universities in the world (Harvard, Yale, New York, Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia in the United States; Cambridge, Oxford, London School of Economics in the United Kingdom and Melbourne in Australia, among others) they have incorporated a variety of mindfulness programs and workshops into their student wellness programs throughout the year. To give specific examples, let’s see what some of them offer:

      Harvard University

      Harvard University offers meditation sessions every day of the week in specially equipped rooms, its own 4-week program and 8 week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program, In two annual editions, in addition to other audiovisual resources and a specialized blog. The Harvard Law School Mindfulness Society student organization provides resources and organizes meditation groups.

      Stanford University

      Stanford University runs a specific 6-week freshman course, in two editions during the course. Second and third year students also have mindfulness workshops which provide them with credits in their curricular trajectory. Apart from that, there are also weekly meditation sessions.

      Cambridge University

      The University of Cambridge also offers a wide variety of daily mindfulness practice, offering 8 Week Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses and a series of quarterly workshops focused, respectively, on increasing attention and concentration, managing anxiety, exam relaxation and rest, and conscious decision-making to better manage time and meet deadlines.

      Oxford University

      The University of Oxford offered its first full-service course in 2011-12 and since then, hundreds of students have participated in MBSR programs, with very positive results.

      Benefits embodied in evidence

      The evaluation of all mindfulness programs held in these academic settings clearly indicates that it increases students’ resilience, self-awareness, attention and focus, helping them improve their learning experience and manage their work more efficiently.

      A Cambridge University study involving more than 600 students concluded that the introduction of eight-week mindfulness courses at UK universities it could help prevent mental illness and improve the well-being of pupils at a time of growing concern for mental health in the higher education sector. University mental health services have seen a sharp increase in demand. The number of students accessing this service increased by 50% between 2010 and 2015.

      According to the study published in The Lancet Public Health in December 2017, the prevalence of mental illness among freshmen is lower than in the general population. These levels increase when young people are in their second year of college.

      In view of all this, the establishment of wellness plans for students should be considered so that their academic training is accompanied by solid personal preparation through personal development resources such as mindfulness.

      Author: Ferran Garcia de Palau Garcia-Faria

      Responsible for the area of ​​mindfulness and personal growth of PSICOTOOLS. MBSR Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program accredited instructor at the University of Massaschussetts. Certified trainer of mindfulness for children and adolescents of the Eline Snel method (Academy for Mindful Teaching – AMT). Member of the Professional Association of Mindfulness Instructors – MBSR. Member of the Spanish Association for Mindfulness and Compassion (AEMIND). Member of the welfare committee of the Bar Institute of Mental Health.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Pol A, Hernández JM, Poza C. Assessment of academic stress in university students. Anxiety and Stress Magazine. 1996; 2 (2-3): 159-172.
      • Reig A, Cabrero J, Ferrer RI, Richard, M. The quality of life and state of health of university students. Alicante. Miguel de Cervantes Virtual Library; 2001. Available at:
      • Galante J, Dufour G, Vainre M, Wagner A, Stochl, J, Benton, A, et al. A mindfulness-based intervention to increase stress resistance in students (Mindful Student Study): a pragmatic randomized controlled trial. The Lancet Public Health, articles | VOLUME 3, NUMÉRO 2, PE72-E81, February 1, 2018.

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