by Audrey Wint RYT 200

I decided to explore the question, “How can meditation help lower stress in non-traditional college students?”.  The “why” behind my question focuses on why is it so important to lower stress, especially for non-traditional students and what we can do about it. A non-traditional student is one that is generally older, may have a family and children, and may be holding down part-time or full-time job. The academic journey comes along with stress as is and when you throw in a challenge like work, life, and school, balancing it can cause added stress. This paper will explore the history of meditation, address potential adverse effects, explain why meditation is a valuable and accessible resource to help manage stress for non-traditional college students, and elaborate on why it’s relevant to community health. 

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Meditation is based on a practice that originally began in India around 1500 BCE and then spread to surrounding countries such as Japan and eventually the United States of America. The practice involves “seeing things as they really are” and begins with the individual observing their breath, physical sensations, thoughts, and emotional states as they arise in the present moment. (Lustyk, 2009, p. 20). Non-traditional students with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) could have the potential experience of flashbacks, hallucinations, and feelings of depression. Epileptic students have the potential to experience hallucinations, panic, and or tension. Spiritual students could have the potential experience of religious delusions and meditation “addiction” (Lustyk, 2009, p. 22-23). Therefore, the mental, physical, and spiritual health of the non-traditional student should be taken into consideration before practicing meditation. If adverse feelings and emotions become more serious the student should seek guidance from a teacher they trust or seek professional medical assistance. 

Meditation should be practiced by non-traditional students because it is an effective holistic therapy that supports cognitive health. The components of Meditation include the following: attention regulation, body awareness, emotion regulation, and change in perspective on the self (Hölzel, 2011, p. 539). Self-reported and experimental behavior findings revealed that meditation contributed to enhanced performance which is associated with the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex and increased scores on enhanced body awareness associated to the brain’s insula, temporo-parietal junction. It also showed increase in positive reappraisal which is associated with the brain’s (dorsal) prefrontal cortex, increase in no reactivity to inner experiences associated to the brain’s hippocampus and amygdala, and change in self-concept associated with the brain’s medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, insula, temporo-parietal junction (Hölzel, 2011, p. 539). The impact that meditation has on the brain is extraordinary because the individual can change the way their brain processes information and their reactions by focusing their attention on the present moment and breathing. Meditation is an amazing holistic practice that allows students to control their stress by simply using their mind. Once a non-traditional student begins to form a consistent practice of meditation, they will recognize that they are thinking differently and possibly more optimistically leading to a better quality of life with less worry and less anxiety. 

Meditation is convenient and affordable. Meditation is virtually accessible anytime and anywhere. In the year 2020 there are so many outlets that allow us to practice meditation and some of them are free. For example, Mindful Meditation can be done comfortably at home sitting in a chair, a meditation pillow, or even in bed. If students don’t know where to begin their meditation or how to start there are now online channels and mobile applications that provide thousands of different guided meditations depending on what is most beneficial to the individual. To name a few: Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, and many more are associated with the mobile application route. The online meditations are free and mobile application meditations can be purchased at an extremely low price with a student discount. There are also resources such as magazines and books from the library that provide insight for guided meditations with various yoga teachers and mediation experts. Another route for guided meditation could be in the student fitness center located on campus or a local yoga studio. Here a student can incorporate yoga exercise and mindfulness at the same time with a certified instructor. Yoga has been associated with mindful movement connecting the body and mind. When it comes minimizing financial obligations and seeking help there is an ever-growing community as well as resources that help non-traditional students tackle stress. 

For our community, the accessibility and awareness to a holistic therapy like meditation would help address and prevent substance use, a coping skill commonly found among stressed non-traditional students. Stress can lead to students dropping out along with individuals and families continuing to struggle while continuing to be trapped in the socioeconomic struggle that determines their health outcomes. I would like to see a world where the rate of stressed out non-traditional students and students goes down and the rate of self-awareness and mindful meditation increases creating a better quality of life for society with less stressed individuals. 

I hope to encourage research and spread the message to non-traditional students about a coping mechanism, like mindful meditation, that helps them to manage stress, be resilient and push back against adversity while continuing their education so that they may thrive in every dimension of health. 

Mental Health Information

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). If you are in a crisis or looking for mental health information, you can call NAMI’s helpline for free support.

Headspace Student Plan :

https://www.headspace.com/studentplan

@MorganHarperNichols

Amazon Links

Meditation Cushion 

Practicing Mindfulness Book 

References

Lustyk, M. K. B., Chawla, N., Nolan, R. S., & Marlatt, G. A. (2009). Mindfulness meditation 

research: issues of participant screening, safety procedures, and researchers training. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, 24(1), 21-27. Retrieved from 

Cho, H., Ryu, S., Noh, J., & Lee, J. (2016). The Effectiveness of Daily Mindful Breathing Practices on Test Anxiety of Students. PLoS One, 11(10), E0164822.

Hölzel, B., Lazar, S., Gard, T., Schuman-Olivier, Z., Vago, D., & Ott, U. (2011). How Does Mindfulness Meditation Work? Proposing Mechanisms of Action From a Conceptual and Neural Perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(6), 537-559. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41613530

Yeung, D., & Martin, M. (2013). Interventions to Promote Spiritual Fitness. In Spiritual Fitness and Resilience: A Review of Relevant Constructs, Measures, and Links to Well-Being (pp. 31-33). RAND Corporation. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/j.ctt5hhv6n.9

Newman, M. G., Llera, S. J., Erickson, T. M., Przeworski, A., & Castonguay, L. G. (2013). Worry and Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Review and Theoretical Synthesis of Evidence on Nature, Etiology, Mechanisms, and Treatment. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology9, 275–297. http://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-050212-185544

Carriero, J. (2009). The Second Meditation. In Between Two Worlds: A Reading of Descartes’s Meditations (pp. 65-127). Princeton University Press. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7sv63.7