As we approach the end of this semester, many students are left burned out, exhausted and overwhelmed with the seemingly endless demands of college. Coupled with the increasingly demanding academics, the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated students’ existing feelings of continuous stress. In fact, 71% of college students have indicated increased anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, it is essential for students to find ways of dealing with these demanding stressors. This is where meditation comes into play!
Many people argue that meditation is simply an empty trend that will soon pass. However, many “trends” in the previous years have turned into modern day social norms. For example, in the 1960s, running and jogging was looked down upon as strange. Such activities were even criminalized by the police for "illegal use of a highway by a pedestrian." It was only popularized by Bill Borrow, and now is common within most cultures.
Eventually, the same will happen to meditation. As stress increases, people will be prompted to discover new ways of improving their mental health. And with the outburst of psychological research and the positive effects on people’s minds, it is evident that meditation will only increase in popularity in the near future. Often, people justify their reasoning by claiming that, “it’s just a New Age fad,” assuming that meditation is an esoteric, fictional nonsense. However, the abundance of research on its improvement on memory, concentration and cognitive functioning has argued otherwise.
According to modern psychological and neuroscience research, meditation has been shown to treat several mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. Not only has meditation proven successful with treating affective disorders, but research indicates that Transcendental Meditation® can lessen symptoms of Posttraumatic-stress disorder through dealing with physiological responses. Meditation has been shown to reduce hyperarousal and introduce positive stress-coping techniques.Although the meditation might not treat mental disorders completely, it is a great way to decrease it to the point where the people no longer suffer similar dysfunction and distress.
On campus, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry Dr. Richard Davidson has proven how meditation has been beneficial in resolving psychological issues. The findings of his studies are run through his Health Emotions Research Institute. In terms of brain development, meditation has been shown to change in volume and blood flow. Specific regions of the brain related to the brain, such as the amygdala, begin to display decreased activity once people practice meditation. Moreover, decreased blood flow in such regions contributes to people becoming less sensitive, and more satisfied with life situations. In effect, people can become more relaxed and it can help relieve stress, and boost productivity. All of this will not only contribute to better overall mental health, but it could also immensely help college students with their academic performance.
Currently, there are only limited resources that UW-Madison provides for meditation, one of which is the UHS Spotify guided meditation. As such, a plethora of potential resources could be offered to improve the situation of students in the Madison community. A meditation center could be provided at UHS for students to practice guided meditation with other peers, similar to group therapy. Group meditation would often be led by a UHS professional.
In the near future, where meditation is more normalized, meditation classes could possibly be offered in recreational centers such as the Nicholas recreational center. The university can further push it to have mental health training on Canvas which would contain accurate information and resources on mental health alongside guide meditation training. This will not only expose students to new ways of coping with stress, but it will help spread awareness as well as educate students on the importance of maintaining good mental health. Having such opportunities available for students will provide countless benefits that will improve their academic, social and personal lives.
Despite the incredible benefits of meditation, it’s critical to recognize the simple fact that meditation is not for everyone. By no means will every person build an instant connection with meditation and produce instant results. Nevertheless, during such a time of elevated, universal stress, it is imperative for college students to begin exploring novel ways of taking care of themselves, mentally and spiritually. Even though it might be difficult at first, starting out with 5-minute meditations a day, filled with silence and the greatest level of focus, will do wonders in the long run. With a clear head and the stillness of time, people can be relieved of most of their worries and begin to tap into something special, something pure, something beautiful.
Abdullah is a sophomore and is studying psychology. Do you think you should consider meditation? Could it be beneficial? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org