Mindfulness Montana helps combat stress on Rocky campus

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“by Kajlea Richards”

As a college student, it is easy to get wrapped up in the hectic pace of school, work, and having a social life. Often, participating in too many activities at once can lead to feeling over-
whelmed and stressed.
That is why Janet Dietrich, the founder of Mindfulness Montana, in conjunction with Kim Woeste and Cynthia Hutchinson, is bringing Mindfulness Practices to the campus of Rocky
Mountain College.
According to Dietrich in an email interview, “Mindfulness practices are a chance to ‘catch your breath’ amid the hecticness and demands of juggling school, work and friendships. This
creates an opportunity to get off ‘autopilot’ and be- come more aware of the choices you are making.”
Dietrich’s approach to mindfulness has been strongly influenced by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Quoting Kabat-Zinn, Dietrich stated, that mindfulness is all about “‘the awareness that comes from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment and as open-heartedly as possible.’”
“Every moment we are awake is a chance to ‘show up,’” said Dietrich. “Unfortunately, research shows that our minds are wandering away from what we are actually doing in the present moment about 47% of the time. This pattern of distraction is associated with lower levels of happiness.”
According to Dietrich, mindfulness is a natural ability that we all possess.
We are all capable of participating in informal and formal practices of mindfulness. Informal mindfulness can be performed through- out the day, meaning you focus on the “right here
and right now,” all while performing everyday tasks such as eating or doing laundry. In contrast, formal mindfulness is when you carve time out of your day that is specifically dedicated to being mindful or participating in meditation.
Although mindfulness can look like meditation, it doesn’t always have to.
“Sometimes it looks like sitting,” said Dietrich. “Sometimes it’s walking, sometimes it’s stretching, and sometimes it’s lying down.
There is no single ‘correct’ way to do mindfulness meditation. Each participant is invited to ask themselves, ‘What would be most comfortable for me today?’”
Mindfulness practices are not only beneficial to your mental health, but they also provide you with the opportunity to get to know yourself better. Mindfulness allows you to “recognize how often what seems ‘urgent’ distracts you from what you know to be important,” said Dietrich.
“Studies support that most people who have a daily mindfulness meditation practice report an improved focus and a greater sense of well-being and resilience,” Dietrich stated. “The price of ‘staying busy’ can be increased stress and de- creased productivity. Mindfulness meditation practice encourages cognitive flexibility. That’s your ability to ‘reframe’ situations, your willingness to consider a new perspective and see alternative solutions,” all skills that Dietrich argues are important in today’s complex world.
If you are interested in getting involved with the mindfulness practices on campus, you can attend the free “drop-in” opportunity on Thursday, Nov. 21, or Thursday, Dec. 5, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. in the Selover Room of the Bair Family Student Center. No equipment, prerequisites, or consecutive attendance is required, and more mindfulness practices will be offered during the spring semester, beginning on Jan. 30. Students, faculty, and staff are all welcome.
If you are unable to attend, you can engage in at-home mindfulness practices. “Yoga can be a mindfulness practice,” said Dietrich. “Check out the RMC yoga class taught by Sharon Forman at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Fortin Center. Consider reading Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book “Mindfulness for Beginners,” or explore an app like ‘Stop-Breathe-Think’ or ‘Headspace.’ See if it’s right for you. Apps shouldn’t make the practice harder!”
Janet Dietrich, the founder of Mindfulness Montana. Photo cour- tesy of Mindfulnessmontana.net

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