an image of the Hart House group fitness classes

Mindful Moments: How Being Present Brings Me #JoyAtUofT

How mindful moments and being present bring me #joyatuoft

If you're like me, meditation and mindfulness are two concepts that you RUN from. It can be so difficult to find moments of respite throughout the day. Often, taking a break to do nothing and meditate feels like the last thing that I'd rather do.

As a student, my life is go go go. It's always on to the next reading, on to write the next essay and preparing for my next lecture. Keeping up with all the required academic tasks, household tasks and self-care can be overwhelming and mindfulness feels like another task on my to-do list.

However, meditation isn't actually another item on your to-do list. Instead, it can be a great way to press pause on your day and care for your mind and body. Harvard researchers have discovered that meditation and mindfulness can actually re-wire the structures of your brain and break cycles of rumination. For patients with depression and anxiety, meditation can even bring about healing and relief alongside cognitive behavioural therapy and antidepressants.

For this reason, I've begun to attend Mindful Moments sessions hosted by the Hart House. While attending mindfulness events aren't a complete cure for stress and anxiety, I'm certainly finding it helpful to schedule regular time in my week to relax and be more aware of my body and surroundings. The mere aspect of slowing down my day, pausing and noticing my surroundings really helps produce calm and even, joy. While I'm not the best at meditating, it's definitely a practice that I will try to keep up with.

a description of the Mindful Moments event as a way to learn and incorporate peace into one's daily life

Mindful Moments sessions are typically hosted by Lauren B. and after initial greetings, they begin with a reading of a quote that sets the tone for the entire meeting. One class, Lauren B. read out a quote from Richard Wagamese's book, Embers: One Ojibway's Meditations. This reading is usually followed about five minutes of free writing, in which participants are jot their thoughts down using pen and paper or writing on a phone or laptop. During this time, I find myself unwinding and dissecting all the thoughts and emotions I've been holding onto throughout the day. As an avid journaller, I love to find words for my feelings by expressing myself in the written form.

The next part of Mindful Moments often includes some mindful movement. From light shoulder shakes to gentle stretches to spinal twists, the aim and focus in on building your awareness of your body and paying attention to the physical sensations you're experiencing.

Lastly, the most effective part of Mindful Moments––for me, at least––is the body scan. Together, participants draw their attention to parts of the body, including the forehead, eyes, mouth, and nose. This part of the session was extremely difficult as I found my thoughts scattering and drifting towards the items on my to-do list. I won't lie and pretend that it's easy to draw and keep attention on the body. However, after doing some research, I've discovered that body scans are actually one of the more effective aspects of meditation. They help develop self-compassion, reduce pain and help reduce cravings, anxiety and stress. Thus, even though I haven't yet experienced the benefit of body scans, I will definitely keep trying.

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