One of the greatest challenges many college students face is learning to cope with stress. While physical exercise and non-academic hobbies are common strategies for managing stress and other types of negative emotions, University of Idaho Psychology Professor, Jamie Derrick aims to teach students inner peace through different means – mindfulness and meditation.
Derrick, who founded the increasingly popular UI Mindfulness Meditation program on campus, brought the program to the Moscow community from her trainings in California at UCLA.
“If in LA, why not Moscow?” Derrick said.
The goal of the program is to help students better manage their stress levels through alternative means, such as meditation, and Derrick said she works with the Sustainability Center and the Vandal Health Coalition to decrease the stress levels of UI students, which currently reside above the national average.
Derrick said while physical exercise can be a way to relieve stress, she feels that meditation is a practice that works for nearly everybody.
She said that minds have the tendency to wander off topic, and studies show that half of the time people”s minds are thinking about something different from what we are actually doing.
If kept on task, Derrick said people would be happier, calmer, could improve academically and even enhance their sleep.
“I”m noticing the warmth of the cup as I”m holding it, and the smell of the tea, and the lighting in the room as I take a sip,” Derrick said.
Through her journey in meditation, Derrick has found herself enjoying the simple things and becoming more appreciative in her life. This has kept true for students of hers that have struggled with focusing or even those that have carried a diagnosis of A.D.H.D.
Derrick said she saw improvements in both their grades and various relationships.
Having experienced a challenging childhood, Derrick said she found herself easily upset by the small moments in her life that did not work out in her favor, as well as the unrealistic expectations she placed on herself. Mindfulness has helped her not get lost in these instances and maintain a “warm detachment” in order to avoid being sucked into emotions of anger or depression.
With hopes of spreading the power of mindfulness meditation, Derrick has begun co-teaching a class with Laura Holyoke this spring. The class meets once a week and is designed to assist students with their own meditative practices.
The class also directs students into informal practices that incorporate being aware in their relationships when they”re eating, during conversations, and being conscious of the possibly negative or positive habits that could hurt or discourage their goals.
Derrick encourages students and faculty to attend her free sessions on Wednesdays at noon in the Borah Theater at the Bruce Pitman Center, along with staying updated on their Facebook page: UI Mind.
Derrick said potential obstacles many run into when beginning a meditative practice are boredom, excess stress and the distaste for doing nothing. While practicing meditation might be difficult for some in the beginning, Derrick said she believes it”s important for students to practice managing their attention, and while it takes time to see results, being present and working past that boredom is where discoveries can be made.
Jessica Bovee can be reached at email@example.com