Mindfulness and You
See below for a brief note from the Mental Health Group.
By LISA CHEYNE
Law school is challenging. Law school is even more challenging during a pandemic with seemingly no end in sight. Over the past two years, we’ve all faced unprecedented (I know, a word we’re all sick of hearing at this point) amounts of social isolation and uncertainty which can take a huge toll on one’s mental health. It comes as no surprise that Canadians are reporting feeling negative emotions like worry, stress, loneliness, and sadness brought on by the pandemic. As law students and soon-to-be legal professionals, we’re part of a population with higher rates of anxiety, depression, substance use/abuse disorders, and even suicide, so we may feel the impact of the pandemic on our mental health more acutely. Incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine is one strategy that might alleviate some of these negative feelings.
What is Mindfulness and How Do I Practice It?
Mindfulness is “a way of being”. It involves being present and focusing on what you are doing, thinking, and feeling in the moment. You take each thought, feeling, sensation, and experience as it comes, and more importantly, without judgment. Rather than allowing yourself to spiral or ruminate on something that comes up, you simply acknowledge it and shift your focus back to the present.
You can practice mindfulness during daily activities like eating a meal and taking a walk, or you could look to guided mindfulness meditation. One of the greatest qualities of mindfulness is that it can be practised (almost) anywhere, at any time, and for any length of time (there is no major time commitment involved – although Professor Telfer recommends setting aside around 5 – 10 minutes). Consistency matters far more than the amount of time you spend practising mindfulness (it can be hard to build up this habit, so be sure to forgive yourself if you miss a day or even several days).
The easiest and most accessible way to practice mindfulness is to sit still and focus on your breath (for as little or as long as you want). We all know how to breathe, but sometimes we forget to when we get caught up in our lives and studies. You can keep it as simple as you’d like and just breathe naturally, or you can try a variety of different techniques (deep breathing, 2-4 breathing, and more). If you want to try it out for yourself, you can start by placing your feet flat on the floor, sitting up tall, resting your hands comfortably on your lap, relaxing your shoulders, closing your eyes, and breathing. A guided mindfulness session can help you stay in the present while giving you helpful cues to get the most out of the experience.
What are the Benefits?
Some of the purported benefits of mindfulness are:
1. Improved mental and emotional well-being and quality of life
2. Reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and substance use
3. Improved sleep
4. Improved attention, concentration, and focus*
*Professor Telfer spoke about his students at Western University reporting that they were able to read cases for class quicker because they were able to focus entirely on that task and ignore distractions
Where Can I Access Guided Mindfulness Meditation Sessions?
The good news is that mindfulness is not a fringe practice – so there are a wide variety of accessible resources available.
Mobile apps like Headspace (which you can try for free for 7-14 days, after which a subscription is needed), Calm (which gives you free access to a small portion of their catalogue, or for an annual fee you could sign up for a premium account and have access to everything), and Insight Timer (which is completely free!) are convenient because they’re right there on your phone. The Fitbit app has some fantastic sessions, although the majority can only be accessed if you have a premium account. There are also thousands of guided mindfulness meditation videos on YouTube (the “Daily Calm” ones from the Calm app’s channel are quite good!).
A few other options that might interest you are free live mindfulness meditation sessions:
1. Tuesdays from 7:00 – 7:30 PM held by ADAM (Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba)
2. Wednesdays from 12:30 – 1:30 PM held by the U of M Student Counselling Centre (“Mid-Day Mindfulness” workshop with Tim Osachuk)
3. Fridays from 1:30 to 3:30 PM, 6 sessions between March 4 – April 8, 2022, held by the U of M Student Counselling Centre (“Mindful De-Stressing Group” with Tim Osachuk)
To register for the ADAM sessions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 204-925-0060
To register for the SCC workshop and/or group, contact reception at 204-474-8592 to receive a link to the session.
Lisa Cheyne (Mental Health Group President)