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CHEWS Mindfulness

When people hear the word “mindfulness” what do they think? What do they associate it with? What do people do that may be considered mindful? These were the questions that guided my attempt to identify how mindfulness plays a role in the Bates community. Early on, I ran into a few roadblocks—most people I talked to had no idea what mindfulness was, or how one might go about being mindful. They are not alone. In my research, I found several different definitions of mindfulness, each with their own mix of vague terminology. For example, one self-help site defines mindfulness as “the practice of purposefully focusing all of your attention on the current moment, and accepting it without judgment” (https://www.mindful.org/how-to-practice-mindfulness/). A different site states practicing mindfulness is “the art of creating space for ourselves—space to think, space to breathe, space between ourselves and our reactions.” Superficially, these may be two different definitions, but as one peels the layers back they both speak to the importance of awareness and self-reflection.
After I briefly explained what mindfulness was and what it could look like to my interviewees, they all had a similar moment of realization. While they found it difficult to speak to mindfulness per se, they found it easy to talk about awareness and reflection. For many people, mindfulness manifested itself through methods of preparation, removing distractions, and taking a step back when stress levels increase. Mary Richardson, a friend and teammate of mine, plans out her weeks by identifying deadlines, organizing a work schedule, and setting goals for how she wants to spend her time. At night she journals about things that went well during the day, explaining, “it helps me focus on things that I am grateful for, because we can get too wrapped up in the things that made us stressed or upset.” A common theme throughout my conversations was an awareness of how phones have interrupted many of our daily actions. Carly Harris, a first-year from California, described a moment of realization she had when walking to the library earlier this week. The icy sidewalks had forced her to pay attention to every footstep she took, and to put away her phone in order to do so. “It made me feel present. I see so many people on their phones as they walk, but it can be really relaxing to notice the world around you.” Henry Colt ‘19, a senior from Massachusetts, turns his phone off at 9:30. Mary puts hers away until she completes a task. Another great manifestation of mindfulness came from Jackson Donahue ‘22, a first-year from New Jersey: “I don’t hold grudges against people because there are reasons behind people’s behavior—I don’t know what they’re going through.”
Perhaps my favorite thing about mindfulness is the ability to see a sort of domino-effect of benefits. Being aware of what you have to do in the week to come, of how technology distracts you, and of how people behave won’t just positively affect your mental health and productivity, but will also strengthen those connections in your brain, making mindful behavior second-nature. On Thursday the 14th—Valentine’s Day, for those who are keeping track—CHEWS is sponsoring a “Hang Up, Hang Out, and Spread the Love” event in which we encourage people to put away their phones, be present, and write a letter to a person they appreciate. Come by our table to learn more about the event, pick up supplies, and kick off your mindfulness journey!

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