Studies show mindfulness can increase academic performance

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Mindfulness as a means of stress reduction has proven effective for healthy individuals, according to research published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine by authors Manoj Sharma and Sarah E. Rush.

Jared Warren, a BYU psychology professor, certified meditation teacher and clinical psychologist, teaches mindfulness practices in both undergraduate and graduate courses at BYU. Thanks to his mindfulness modules, students are able to better understand what mindfulness is.

“Mindfulness is a healthy awareness of thoughts, emotions and experiences that we can apply to everyday circumstances to live a rich and joyful life,” Warren said.

Warren has created multiple mindfulness modules and a YouTube channel to help educate not only BYU students, but anyone else who may be interested in learning more about what mindfulness is and how it can be applied in their life.

A video narrated by BYU Professor Jared Warren explains the meaning of mindfulness. Mindfulness has been studied consistently as a means of stress reduction for healthy adults, adolescents and children. (My Best Self 101/ YouTube)

Clara Drago, a BYU elementary education major, began her journey with mindfulness in 2018 and has spent over 8,000 minutes practicing it, partially through the app Headspace.

“I think mindfulness and meditation are so important, especially in school because it’s so easy to get caught up in life and stressed and overwhelmed with the speed of life. A daily three-minute session is so important to me. I would definitely recommend it to other students,” Drago said.

Recent BYU psychology graduate Ray Norton reflected on a paper she wrote about mindfulness and its effects on the human brain.

“When you’re in a state of meditation, your brain waves slow down and you’re able to tap into theta brain waves. Theta waves allow you to essentially reprogram your brain in ways that can be very beneficial,” Norton said.

Norton drew a correlation between mindfulness and deep prayer, saying the latter also promotes tapping into theta brain waves and promotes healthy change.

“From my experiences, I’ve found that a lot of people are often reactive rather than proactive. Mindfulness allows you to step back into a mindset that allows you to make good decisions,” Norton said.

Nathan Hunter Seal, a BYU senior majoring in political science took a meditation-based class offered at BYU last summer and has engaged with therapy that covers radical acceptance theory and mindfulness.

Radical acceptance involves acknowledging reality as it is, without judgment, avoidance or attempts to change it. It is about coming to terms with the things that cannot be controlled or changed and finding peace despite the presence of emotional pain or challenging situations.

“I have really grounded myself with Aum chanting, which I discovered in the BYU class, and I highly recommend it to students,” Seal said.

Simon Charles, left, is pictured with other members of the BYU Mindfulness and Meditation Club. Mindfulness has been studied consistently as a means of stress reduction for healthy adults, adolescents and children. (@byumeditation/ Instagram)

Warren explained there is not necessarily one way of practicing mindfulness that is better than the other. The focus should be on making a habit of living in the present, and any way in which someone does that, they are practicing mindfulness.

“Learning to pay attention to what’s happening in the present moment, bringing an open curiosity to whatever is there and not needing it to be different, is the heart of mindfulness. In understanding the value of the present moment, we learn that it is the only moment in which we have any power,” Warren said.

Simon Charles, a mechanical engineering major, is the president of the Mindfulness and Meditation club at BYU. He and other club members commonly utilize mindfulness tools to help others be more present in their lives, enhance their quality of life and increase their academic performance.

“The mission of the Mindfulness and Meditation club is to provide opportunities for BYU students to learn about and practice mindfulness techniques that will improve their quality of life,” Charles said.

Charles believes that mindfulness can be beneficial to students at BYU and echoes Warren’s comments on the importance of being present.

“Mindfulness is about awareness. By embracing the present, we can awaken to a deeper reality … your life becomes what you pay attention to,” Simon said.

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