Meditation underrated as a form of relaxation during finals

Eric Rhoads and Eric Rhoads

More often than not, students are extremely stressed this time of year.

From exams and quizzes to final papers and projects, the flow of work all culminates into a practically unmanageable amount during the last couple weeks of the semester. Yet, many students find unhealthy ways of dealing with this stress.

The benefits of meditation are well documented. Advanced practitioners have been reported to forego pain medication during surgery in favor of this simple practice. Regular practice amongst individuals has been shown to increase awareness and bring about peace of mind.

The practice is growing in popularity on the national scale. But to many, it still remains in the background, subverted in favor of medication and other less beneficial methods of stress reduction. The problem seems to stem from a lack of knowledge, as meditation is generally seen as a religious practice rather than simply a beneficial and healthy one.

There are many kinds of meditation: chanting, a form of transcendental meditation; body scans in which an individual becomes aware of bodily sensations from head to toe; dream yoga which focuses on meditation within a lucid dream state; and the most common, breathing meditation.

The breathing technique is the most common practice for beginners, and for the purposes of stress reduction can do wonders as long as the practitioner makes the effort to stick with it.

Individuals find themselves in a comfortable, stable position. This usually means sitting up with back straight and legs crossed on a cushion. However, the important point is to find a position comfortable enough not to distract the individual and simultaneously not being so comfortable that the individual falls asleep.

Once this position is found, individuals generally close their eyes (though this isn’t a requirement) and focus their attention toward breathing. This can be done several different ways. An individual can focus upon the sensation of breath at their nostrils or the rising and lowering of their chest.

But one of the best methods for a beginner is to focus on the pause between the inhale and exhale of breath. The cycle of breath is inhale, pause, exhale, pause, back to inhale. Counting these pauses can help, but it can also be distracting, as the focus should be on the breath and not the number. Whatever works, find a way to bring as much attention as possible to the breath.

The breath is focused upon in meditation because it is a way of connecting with the present moment, as we breathe every moment of our lives. This connection with the present moment will naturally be interrupted with wandering thoughts about all those pesky tasks yet to be done, but just remember to come back to the breath and stay in the present moment – the now.

Doing this for even just 10-15 minutes a day has immense benefits, not just in stress reduction but also in an individual’s overall health.

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