By Drew Haughey
With all the countless cures for a busy, stressful life being thrust at us all the time, you’d be forgiven for responding with a healthy dose of skepticism. Surely they can’t all work? If some pill was the ultimate cure we’d have known about it by now and since modern life demands so much of our time, many of us would be on them.
I was skeptical too, as a nervous first year student. The posters plastered about the college stairwell promised relaxation and peace. Mindfulness. I’d never heard of it. I found out later it was a form of meditation and wrote it off as pseudoscience; up there with crystals and seances.
It turned out I knew very little – Mindfulness is entirely secular, developed as a method by psychologists after observing eastern practices – so when I was next exposed to mindfulness through a Horizon documentary, which promised noticeable changes in anxiety/depression levels during a monitored trial, I was ready to give it a go.
As described in the video above, all we had to do was sit, with our eyes closed, hands on our laps. The first five minutes were torture. Feeling the urge to fidget showed me just how unused I was to staying still. As soon as that realisation came, I just let it happen. Which was a weird thing to observe. By finally letting nothing happen, I was finally letting Mindfulness happen.
When we opened our eyes after 10 minutes, it was like I had just woken up. It compared to that feeling you get after immersing yourself in a great film, when reality hits as you walk out the hall. That break from thinking seemed to be exactly what I needed: I felt great!
That day, focusing on work was easier than it had ever been, and accompanying the less distracted mind was a great feeling of freedom.
Besides from helping students in my still ongoing pilot study, the technique has also showed promise in reducing chronic pain, as well as being transformative in improving attention span among those with ADHD.
I was lucky enough to be able to experience these effects firsthand; ones that go far beyond placebo. Although this course of mindfulness was only a pilot trial, I fully expect this to be one of the first waves of a growing movement. In fact, TIME magazine recently investigated the same topic in depth as well as the Horizon documentary.
The mindful movement is just beginning. Give it a try and tweet us @scotcampus.