The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is one of countless institutions adding mindfulness practice as a resource for students, faculty and staff. And the move is one that deserves praise and attention.
Vanderbilt University's Center for Teaching has seemingly endless resources on the topic, and primary and secondary schools are also implementing the practice. Researchers are studying the effects of using mindfulness techniques in schools and starting to publish their results.
By definition, mindfulness is "the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis."
The mindfulness workshops are Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to noon in the University Center's Chattanooga Room.
9/14: Why Mindfulness?
9/21: Mindful Movement
10/12: Mindful Studies
10/19: Mindfulness & Emotion
11/2: Mindful Meals
11/16: Mindful Experimentation
I've been practicing for a couple of years now, and the work has had a tangible positive impact.
So I was pleased to hear that UTC is hosting a series of workshops this semester on mindfulness. (Although the sessions are currently only open to those at UTC, depending on available space, they may be opened to the public later.)
Tricia L. Henderson, with UTC's Counseling and Personal Development Center, said that leaders are always working to bring programming to help students, staff and faculty learn coping skills.
And she noted that the university's Women's Center has offered Meditation Mondays for a while.
But Henderson, who uses mindfulness practices in her professional and personal life, said that leaders wanted to expand the offerings. This semester's workshops grew out of a collaboration with the Center for Mindful Living, whose practitioners will lead the sessions.
"It's been something that's ... become more well-known or at least more well-talked-about for a strategy for dealing with stress," Henderson said. "But I don't think a lot of people really understand the foundation of mindfulness, or they might have misperceptions."
One of the misperceptions is that mindfulness is connected to religion or spirituality. And while it certainly can be, much of the practice happening now—especially in schools—is secular.
It's like exercise for the mind.
Practicing mindfulness helps us understand that we are not our stress or random, crazy thoughts. It helps us be present in the moment and respond better to pressure and conflict.
It helps us appreciate life's little luxuries.
And research also shows there are tangible, positive effects on the body as well.
Henderson said that the workshops aim to educate people on a wide variety of topics connected to mindfulness, such as mindful eating.
She said the workshops are for anyone at UTC—no matter if they've practiced for a long time or never have before.
"I hope [participants] gain a little bit of knowledge related to what the mindfulness movement is and how they can find a way for it to work for their lives," Henderson said. "There's so much that any of us could benefit from."
And kudos to UTC for helping to educate and dispel misconceptions about mindfulness.
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