Spiritual or soul-nourishing practices don’t have to be religious. Mindfulness meditation is a secular practice that allows you to cultivate awareness and compassion. Plus, evidence for the health and wellness benefits of mindfulness keeps piling up. USC has made a major commitment to the study and practice of mindfulness with Mindful USC, which is led by Varun Soni, PhD, JD, director of the Office of Religious Life (ORL).
Since 2015, the program has offered students, faculty and staff free 8-week training courses in mindfulness. “We could not keep up with the demand in the first year of the program, in which Mindful USC trained 800 people” – nearly half were students – “not for credit or a grade. It showed a real thirst on campus for this type of training,” said Soni. The program aims to train another 800 people this year, as well as develop new classes for those looking for more training.
Why train in mindfulness?
“Sure, we want to help students dealing with anxiety, insomnia or depression, but we also want to help people think creatively and live with more attention to detail,” Soni said. All Mindful USC instructors spend several years in specialized training. Visit mindful.usc.edu for more information.
Benefits of Mindfulness
- Decrease stress and anxiety
- Improve concentration and information retention
- Improve planning, judgment, and decision-making skills
- Enhance a sense of emotional well-being
- Improve scores on memory-based tests
How to Be Mindful
Incorporating mindfulness, even for as brief a period as 5-10 minutes a day, can have substantial benefits. Here are some examples of ways to include a practice into your routine:
- Breathe: Sit or lie down comfortably. Mentally scan each area of your body and intentionally release any existing tension. Breathe deeply and slowly, allowing 4 seconds for each inhale and 4 seconds for each exhale.
- Slow down the chow down: Allow extra time to prepare, select, cut and even chew your food. Signal your body that it’s OK to settle down into digestion mode and savor each bite.
- Meditate: Silently or a with a guided visualization. Try free apps like Calm or Headspace for guidance.
- Practice yoga or tai chi.