Using mindfulness to help with… everything!

Sarah, a current second year medicine student, is very passionate about mental health and is currently helping students realise the importance of wellness through UQMind. She shares with us her thoughts around mindfulness and what you can do to disconnect from useless thoughts and get on with your study and life.

Mindfulness is definitely a buzz word these days – it has become a trendy way to improve concentration and productivity.  Does the below sound familiar?

  • Feeling stressed about upcoming exams…? Mindfulness meditation can help.
  • Lacking creativity for an assignment…? Give mindfulness a crack!
  • Need to lose weight…? Mindfulness is the answer.

There are countless books, courses, self-help programs and therapists that are all ready to teach you mindfulness in exchange for your money – but I doubt that this ‘commercialisation of happiness’ is what scholars like Jon Kabat-Zinn had in mind when they introduced mindfulness to western countries. I believe that his goals were probably more closely aligned with alleviating suffering than providing a new opportunity for business ventures. 

However, selling mindfulness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In a society where value is often equated with cost, you could argue that if mindfulness skills were never sold to us, we may not be particularly interested in them – and we’d be missing out on some great techniques.

The problem with selling mindfulness is that simply saying, ‘become more present’, may not have the same pulling power for individuals who are results orientated – for many people, mindfulness has to be directly relatable and useful in some way.

The goal of mindfulness is presence – coming into the now and realising how our problems can be sorted when we disconnect from our racing thoughts, acknowledge and accept our emotions, and when we choose to act in accordance with our values.

Taking this into account, it is through presence that you can disconnect from the stressful thoughts about your exam, gain inspiration for your assignment, or gain the awareness to break patterns of emotional eating.

When presence isn’t the advertised goal, often people won’t get what they want and they’ll lose interest – before they actually see the benefits of mindfulness.

It’s well known in western societies that we often focus on a quick fix – a pill or a program that can take our thoughts of inadequacy away and fix our problem. But the thought that something is a problem and needs fixing is in our mind.

Of course, your exams are definitely important – indeed something you want to pay attention to and study for. It may well be something that aligns with the values you have around pursuing an education or working in the health industry. But do the anxious thoughts rushing through your mind help you study for that exam?

You may have experienced thoughts like: ‘What if I fail?’, ‘How will I make up for it?’, ‘Why didn’t I study enough?’ or even ‘This is too hard – I can’t do it!’

You may spend more time worrying than actually studying. If this sounds like you, I have some good news – mindfulness really can help.

You don’t need to become a yogi, or even meditate, to be more mindful (and more present). Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.

For example, you could try going for a walk, painting, or eat … whilst observing what is happening right in that moment - your thoughts floating in and out of your mind; your sensations – what you can touch, see, smell, taste and feel; and your bodily sensations as you move.

The practice of mindfulness will help you build presence and help you relate to your experiences and life in a new way – a better way. You will have space to think about what is important to you and you can decide to act in accordance with your values – rather than behaving out of habit.

I encourage you to find ways to be more mindful so you can disconnect from these useless thoughts and get on with study and life.

Interested in knowing more about or practising mindfulness? This is a great source to get you started:

Here are some free mindfulness exercises to get you started:

Meet the author...

My name is Sarah and I'm currently studying medicine at UQ, I am just about to finish my second year. I'm super passionate about mental health, and currently busy helping other students with UQMind - a new wellbeing initiative of the UQ Medical Society. This is a picture of me with my nephew in India, isn't he the cutest.


Last updated:
23 January 2017