Meditation classes reduce everyday stress

As I hurry into the studio to shield myself from the Miami rain, I am greeted by a woman with piercing blue eyes. She smiles; I explain to her that it is my first time taking a meditation class.

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Michelle Berlin, the meditation instructor at Innergy Meditation in Miami Beach, produces soothing sounds with these bowls during her classes to help those meditating to relax. Photo credit: Elyse Waterman

I take my shoes off and place my personal items in a cubby, and she leads me into a room in which the dim lights barely illuminate the light purple walls. I arrived early to talk to the instructor and get a sense of what exactly we’d be doing.

The only rule she had in this class was that we keep our eyes shut for the entire time. I thought this would be challenging for me, but once I shut my eyes and focused on my breathing, I drifted into thought. With each sound, a different memory appeared.

I felt like I was somewhere exotic; I completely forgot about the busy world existing outside the studio doors. We were still, and we were present. I didn’t expect meditating to be spiritual, but as I opened my eyes at the end, I felt more in tune with my body and with my mind. After weeks of schoolwork and stress, I finally felt relaxed and at ease.

Most college students don’t travel all the way to South Beach on a Friday night to attend a meditation class, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you should consider it. It is so important to take time and let your mind rest. We spend hours staring at screens everyday. We walk to and from class, thinking about what we have to get done before the end of the day. We dread due dates, and yearn for the weekend.

We never give ourselves time to be still – to be present. Meditation can help, and it doesn’t have to be intensive either.

Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte found that students were able to improve their performance on tests of cognitive skill after just four days of meditation training for only 20 minutes per day. On one particularly challenging computer test of sustained attention, students who meditated did 10 times better than a control group. They also did significantly better on timed information-processing tasks that were designed to induce deadline stress.

For anyone experiencing stress, or just feeling uncertain with college and the point of it all, I would recommend you try meditating in a class or even on your own. “Come as you are” and I promise it’ll be worth it.

Elyse Waterman is a junior majoring in journalism.