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I recently introduced a mindfulness program to a club called Civil Discourse at a private school in Los Angeles. It was intended for the leader of the club to lead his group in mindfulness, which is a basic human ability to be fully present and aware of where you are and what you’re doing with acceptance and non-judgment. By implementing mindfulness, the members of the club can have a clear understanding of what the code of behavior is when discussing controversial topics like politics and current events.
In today’s national political environment, a code of behavior doesn’t seem to be in place. This prompted former First Lady Michelle Obama to vow, “When they go low, we go high.” But what we’ve seen lately is a whole new low.
Teaching mindfulness to students in school is a promising way for them to learn what it means to not only be more present in their lives, but to be present with kindness and compassion. It gives them an opportunity to practice acts of kindness in situations that may be difficult, preparing them for the many challenging situations that they’ll face out in the world once they graduate. Discussing challenging topics like politics or social issues in class, or encountering bullying in the schoolyard, they can apply their mindfulness skills to handle whatever they come across and make decisions from a much more grounded, aware state of mind.
Mindfulness will teach students how to think twice about the words that leave their mouth, and to take a necessary pause in order to choose more thoughtful words to convey their thoughts and feelings.
Because these young people are our future, I hope that mindfulness is taught in schools across our nation and throughout the world so that they will become the mindful leaders we so desperately need.
Here is a mindfulness list for a new code of behavior:
1. Present moment awareness — being present and aware in each moment.
2. Self-check — connecting to your authentic core, or who you really are in the moment. Are you showing up in this moment as your most authentic self?
3. Mindfulness breathing — using the breath as a center of concentration to bring your focus and awareness back to the present moment.
4. Focus on the present — when your thoughts wander to the past, which has come and gone, or the future, which is not yet here, bring your awareness back to what you’re experiencing right now.
5. Being fully present — You are aware of whatever you’re experiencing in the present moment as you go through your day. What do you feel in your body? Connect to your senses. What are you seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling or doing right here and now?
6. Non-judgment — This is being with your thoughts and feelings without categorizing them as good or bad. All of our feelings have a purpose, and you must allow yourself to experience them. Try to observe and accept whatever arises in your consciousness with an open mind. By doing this with yourself, you can extend this non-judging attitude to others.
7. Openness to experience — Rather than shutting out your feelings or emotions because you think you can’t handle them, observe what you’re experiencing with curiosity. Let whatever you’re feeling arise, and be aware that the next moment is an opportunity to be completely different. This helps you create the mental spaciousness to contain these thoughts and feelings without reacting negatively.
8. Accepting things as they are — You don’t try to force or change anything into what you think it “should” or “has” to be, but you accept it as it is in the moment. You extend this acceptance of others. Don’t expect others to be what you want them to be, but allow them to be who they are.
9. Connection — You feel connected to all living things and to nature, recognizing you are part of a larger whole. You feel grateful for your life and acknowledge that, just like you, all human beings want to feel happy. You feel connected to others and know there’s a similarity of needs.
10. Non-attachment — Try not to hold onto experiences, expectations or resentments. Acknowledge that life is a constant flow, and that attachment comes from fear, which is the basis of suffering. Try to view life as waves in an ocean, and try to surf each wave the best you can. Go with the flow and be confident in your ability to adapt to change.
11. Peace and equanimity — You remain calm and self-controlled, not getting swept up in life’s highs and lows. You know that life is constantly changing, and you flow with those changes with non-attachment. You stay firmly rooted in your own clear vision and values. You practice compassion, and live each moment with a peaceful and accepting heart towards yourself and others.
12. Compassion — You are gentle, kind, and patient with yourself and others. You are a mindful listener, and try and understand your own and other people’s feelings, experiences and suffering. You lead from compassion in all of the moments of your life.
13. Pause — This is taking a break from all of the busyness and “doing.” Get off your devices. Enjoy a moment of stillness. The more moments of stillness you allow for, the more balanced your life will be and the happier you will become.
Mindfulness is a skill that everyone can develop and use. It has enormous value through all the benefits it can bring into our own and others lives. Teaching it to students is one of the most important things we can do to spread peace and serenity in the world. It teaches them more than just what they need to learn academically. It exposes them to a reality beyond what they see on social media. Mindfulness will lead young people to adopt a code of behavior that guides them to become good citizens of the world — something we need more than ever.
Without a mindful approach that leads to a higher awareness, our ability to address political conflicts, the harm being done to our environment and all of the other hardships we’re facing today won’t stand a chance of improving. Mindfulness is the greatest secret weapon we have, and with it, we’ll be able to wage peace, not war, and to find a way to disarm rather than harm one another.
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