One student, Nicole, said that “assign- ments consistently pile up with quickly approaching deadlines, social endeavors become more daunting, and success relies on the ability to manage time effectively. Each task individually adds extra stress to my life despite the seeming simplicity.” After the 8-week program, Nicole reported that, “I can focus on my assignments with a greater attentiveness than before. The awareness of breath meditation has been particularly significant in my college life as it takes my focus and pushes it inward, allowing me to calm myself and refocus my attention when I find my busy thoughts taking over. It also taught me how to view myself and my shortcomings with compas- sion instead of guilt.”

Similarly, Guillaumie, Boiral & Cham- pagne (2016) conducted a study of the effects of mindfulness on work-related stress among nurses. The most frequent interven- tion that was used with this population was group relaxation meetings. Overall, the study indicated that nurses benefitted from a reduction in anxiety and depression and improved performance in well-being (inner state of calmness, awareness, and enthusiasm), improved work performance, better communication with colleagues and patients, higher sensitivity to patients’ expe- riences, clearer analysis of complex situa- tions, and emotional regulation in stressful contexts. One of the nurse participants indicated that she gained skills to identify when she is distracted and tense, tools to remind herself to pay attention to breath. Those tools have increased a sense of relax- ation and calmness, along with being less reactive to stressful situations.

Studies specific to trauma and PTSD

are relatively new and have mixed results, however, in a review of studies it would certainly appear that practicing mindfulness can be an excellent way of coping with the symptoms of PTSD. People who experi- ence PTSD may periodically feel as though they have a hard time getting any distance from unpleasant thoughts and memories. They report feeling preoccupied with and distracted by these thoughts. As a result, many people with PTSD find that they have a hard time focusing their attention on posi- tive relationships with friends and family, or other activities they used to enjoy. The use of mindfulness may assist people to help them be in the present moment and reduce the feeling of being controlled by unpleas- ant thoughts and memories. Additionally, findings indicate that mindfulness can pull one out of the negative downward spiral that can be caused by too much daily stress, 29

too many bad moods, or the habit of rumi- nation. It is also reported that there exists an increase in resilience to stress so one feels less stressed in the future and able to shrug off present stress, ultimately transforming the experience of stress, enjoyment of life and quality of relationships.

Mindfulness Exercises

The following mindfulness exercises are simple and convenient and can lead you to a deeper experience of mindfulness in your daily life.

1. Meditation: Meditation in and of itself brings many benefits. It has been one of the most popular and traditional ways to achieve mindfulness for centuries. Meditation is akin to training for a mara- thon…you start small and gain momen- tum with training. To begin, simply find a comfortable place, free of distractions, and focus on your breath to quiet your mind…60 seconds will provide benefit!

2. Deep Breathing: Because mindfulness is the act of being in the present mo- ment, it can be as simple as breathing! Breathe from your belly rather than from your chest, breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Focus- ing on the sound and rhythm of your breath, especially when you’re upset, can have a calming effect and help you stay grounded in the present moment. You can focus on your breathing as you go about your daily activities. Try

focusing on your breath every time you go through a doorway…voila, you’re practicing mindfulness!

3. Listening to Music: Listening to music has many benefits—that’s part of why listening to music makes a great mind- fulness exercise. You can play soothing new-age music, classical music, or another type of slow-tempo music to feel calming effects. Make it an exercise in mindfulness by really focusing on the sound and vibration of each note, the feelings that the music brings up within you, and other sensations that are hap- pening "right now" as you listen. If other thoughts creep into your head, congrat- ulate yourself for noticing, and gently bring your attention back to the current moment and the music you are hearing.

4. Cleaning House: The term "cleaning house" has a literal meaning (cleaning up your actual house) as well as a figu- rative one (getting rid of "emotional bag- gage," letting go of things that no longer serve you), and both can be great stress relievers! Because clutter has several hidden costs and can be a subtle but significant stressor, cleaning house and de-cluttering as a mindfulness exercise can bring lasting benefits.

To bring mindfulness to cleaning, you first need to view it as a positive event, an exercise in self-understanding and stress relief, rather than simply as a chore. Then, as you clean, focus on

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