OPINION: How Meditation Helps Academics

Photo by Shahariar Lenin from Pixabay.

For a lot of college students, school can be really stressful, and focusing in class can be really difficult. But what if there was a way to make it easier? What if there was a way to reduce stress and help you focus in classes better? The key to this is meditation. Meditation is when you completely relax, letting your brain go blank and wander.

Often taught as a broader subject of reducing stress and focusing on your body, a lot of larger corporations like Apple and Google actually recommend meditation for their employees. According to ABC Science’s Dr. Graham Phillips, “electrical activity in the brain is produced as neurons communicate with each other … When you meditate, alpha and theta waves increase and activity in some parts of the brain decreases, allowing me to focus.” This means that as you concentrate and meditate, you will make some neural activity slow down, reducing anxiety and helping you concentrate better. Alpha and theta waves are the waves in the brain that occur during sleep or a period of relaxation. Phillips, referencing Dr. Neil Bailey, states that meditation can help someone be “better able to concentrate, make faster decisions and remember more information … and [their] brain may even become more energy efficient. You’re performing better, but your brain is exerting less energy.”

According to Sue McGreevey from the Harvard Gazette, a group of Harvard scientists “found structural differences between the brains of experienced meditation practitioners and individuals with no history of meditation, observing thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with attention and emotional integration.” This means that because there are physical changes associated as well, the brain might benefit highly from meditation. Additionally, McGreevey also states that there actually might be some long-lasting effects on the brain and on the ability to focus by just meditating for eight weeks.

Meditating can also “help with stress relief (and as academics we definitely need this), … blood pressure, pain relief, and a myriad of other health side benefits,” says Elizabeth Wells, known as The Organized Academic. And with this information, you will understand that meditating also helps with anxiety, as according to the Mayo Clinic, “episodes of anxiety can cause dramatic, temporary spikes in blood pressure.” So, the next time a student gets anxious, they can meditate to help calm their blood pressure down and, in the process, calm themselves as well.

But the question extends further: How do you meditate? There is no specific way of meditating. The idea behind meditating is to just sit or do something that lets your mind wander. When you let your mind just wander and go blank, you let your brain relax and refuel. In this way, you can be more intuitive and less negativite. The more common ways to meditate include focused attention, body scans, visualization and noting.

In focused attention, you focus on your breathing and let the rest of your brain relax. With body scans, you let your mind wander through the different parts of your body. In visualization, you meditate by focusing on a specific place or object. In noting, you note down everything that distracts you while you focus on breathing. Some places you can start with include using apps like Headspace: Mindful Meditation, Calm, The Mindfulness App and Breethe: Meditation & Sleep. You can also try coloring in mandalas, which allows you to relax while concentrating on a specific task. And you might want to try meditating through YouTube — there are plenty of guided meditations on there as well. So next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, try some meditation. It’ll help you calm down and relax!