Meditation can be a great way to help students and graduates not only become calmer and happier individuals, but also help them have more belief and capability for their future.
I first started my meditation journey several years ago. At first it felt uncomfortable and I was focussed on what I thought was right or wrong, or what I thought I should be feeling. I then began to realise that this was counter intuitive, as the process and practice of meditation is not a direct end goal, and we will have our own unique set of experiences. There is no right or wrong in meditation.
After further experience I found that meditation practices helped me to become much calmer and assisted me in building a much healthier relationship with my own thoughts and emotions. I have more recently become excited by the potential of how meditation can help me create new positive habits and personal growth.
Feel the emotion but don’t become it. Witness it. Allow it. Release it.– Crystal Andrus
How does meditation affect our brain?
Neuroplasticity is where our brains are malleable and we can change our neural pathways over time. Think of traffic in a road grid like system (your current way of thinking and habits) where cars continuously move around the same location.
Once we change our way of thinking, over time with practice we create newly formed habits, and in turn this can create new roads (neural pathways) and change our habits and hence change our future actions and our way of being.
Meditation practices can also help us create new thinking patterns and open up this process.Meditation can rewire our brains circuits and open up new healthy habits for our mind and body. Magnetic resonance imaging & positron emission tomography are several examples of how meditation practice can change the brain.
What is mindfulness and what is meditation?
There are many different types of meditation practice and mindfulness has become a very popular trend. For example, a morning compassion meditation can involve a deep focus, including positive visualisation around you being in a place of calm and also being connected to others through common humanity. A mindfulness practice involves the acceptance of thoughts and emotions in a curious non-judgmental way.
Simply put, mindfulness is moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness.– Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Mindfulness is one of many forms of meditation practice. It is important to understand what mindfulness is due to its increasing popularity, albeit rather than see it directly as different to meditation, it is rather one of many forms of meditation practice in itself.
- Mindfulness does not necessarily require meditation in practice. For example, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy helps individuals to develop mindful ways of thinking by learning different skills without the formal practice of meditation.
- Mindfulness can be practiced in other informal ways, such as mindful walking and mindful listening.
- Transcendental meditation has its origins from the Vedic tradition and is a relaxing process using a mantra to help the mind transcend. In contrast, mindfulness has its origins in the Buddhist tradition and has been brought into the west via practitioners such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, and this process involves active awareness of the mind and repeatedly bringing the mind back into focus when our mind wanders off with thoughts.
- There are many other forms of meditation, such as loving-kindness meditation, guided meditation, reflection and many more.
Morning and bedtime routine
Positive emotions can cause an increase in our cognitive thinking ability, an increase in our creative thinking ability, and increase in our physiological awareness of our surroundings. Therefore, if we leave our homes in the morning in a positive state of mind, a domino effect of motivation for further positive action and awareness of opportunities can ensue which will lead to further positive emotions and further growth.
In contrast, a morning full of negative emotions could result in decreased cognitive thinking and creativity and result in us missing out on the beauty of life and not taking action for further positive outcomes.
Going to bed with anxiety, stress, anger, guilt or many other forms of negative emotion can cause our minds to exacerbate such thoughts and emotions as we sleep and result in us waking up with compounded negative emotion. We should try to never go to bed angry or with negative emotions in full flow.
By practicing meditation before we go to bed and also when we wake in the morning, we can help promote positive emotions such as love, joy and compassion and reduce negative emotions. If we start our day well and end our day well, then we have the platform to be happy and to thrive in life.
Sadly, many of us take negative emotions to bed with us and watch our screens until late, and then often wake up running late for priorities the next day. Such actions can change your day and hence such actions can change your life.
It’s important to keep a positive mindset when it comes to job searching and interviews. It can be very easy for negative thoughts and emotions to overtake you as you are in the process of finding a graduate job but with these meditation practices you should feel calmer, in control and positive about what lies ahead.
The exciting thing here is that so much of our happiness is within our control and meditation can be a tremendously rewarding part of how you begin and end your day.
Helpful meditation resources
Like any habit it is better to do five minutes per day every day than to do one day per week for an hour. We do not have to meditate for an hour or to find the meaning of life or any such thing. A small five-minute compassion meditation in the morning, or small five-minute mindfulness meditation during the day, when practiced daily, can do wonders for our health and well-being.
- Meaningful Paths Calm – This page has quotations, beginners video meditations and also a breath work audio by Clinical Hypnotherapist Gail Marra.
- Headspace – has several free audio meditations for you to practice at your leisure.
Meditation is a wonderful way to help reduce stress for students before exams, deadlines, and job interviews. Meditation can help you reduce anxieties and improve the quality of your life in so many ways. We are learning how meditation can be so much more than this; it can significantly help us stop old habits and be the platform for creating new ways of thinking and newly formed positive habits.
We literally have the power in our hands to become the person we believe we can be and to be our best future self. When we start our day well, we can walk out of our front door and embrace a world full of compassion and opportunity. Begin with small daily steps and do it for yourself.
David Chorlton is a Positive Psychology Practitioner, Emotional Intelligence Teacher and Mindfulness Teacher. David is the founder of wellness platform Meaningful Paths and also volunteers to create children’s well-being courses in developing countries.