Continued from Part 1.
Meditation programs are provided in many universities, which reflects the need as well as its evidence-based effectiveness in helping students alleviate stress levels and promoting health and wellbeing. Yet there are some challenges to attracting those who underutilize the programs.
- Stigma: In the past, attending stress reduction or meditation sessions was regarded as a mental health issue, but no more. We now know that everyone has stress to a certain degree and can benefit from help. However, help-seeking for mental health on campus can still be a stigma for students. Solutions: 1) provide private sessions or places for personal practice, 2) provide information or app for personal practice at home or dorm, 3) continue to promote beneficial programs as a mainstream physical and mental activity.
- Limited time: Students have constant workload pressure. Providing short sessions during early morning, lunch break, after class, or as credit course would allow them to have more choice.
- Peer acceptance: Personal relationship can either deter or attract students. Peer pressure can work negatively in social situations, but from a positive view, if Jim and Jane are going, John and Jill may join too.
- Financial stress: For non-credit programs, mindfulness sessions need to be free. Those who have advanced training can volunteer to teach and the program can sustain its life with minimal budget.
Obstacles reveal opportunities to work together to get over common roadblocks. Once stigma is overcome, it can instill self-confidence in individuals making them believe that they can do things against the odds. When they experience that mindfulness practice helps to improve their academic outcomes and reduce social anxiety, they will find ways to split their busy schedule and invest in their personal practice. Word of mouth about the benefits attract their friends. This is the best strategy for the long-term. Having volunteer leaders contribute to building a healthy community and events for group practice, where like minded and equal level of participants can form groups for further practice, is a great way to enlarge the grass roots population for future leaders.
Sang H. Kim is the director of mindful movement project. He is also a volunteer teacher, mentor, and researcher for organizations and individuals including various human service departments, PTSD treatment programs, and the Stroke Research and Recovery Institute at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation of Harvard Medical School in Boston. Previously, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, and has a PhD in Exercise Science with an emphasis on neurophysiology of movement-based mindfulness. He is the author of a book, Mindful Movement: Mastering Your Hidden Energy.