Class Promotes Mindfulness Approach for Students


Students in the TRU 100: FOCUS class spent much of the fall semester helping develop ways to be successful and productive, and sometimes the answer can be as simple as taking a deep breath.

The practice of mindfulness emphasizes cultivating a healthy, non-judgmental and present-moment orientation toward experience. It has been scientifically linked to improved life satisfaction, enhanced cognitive performance and better interpersonal relationships, and it can be easier than most people realize.

“Being mindful doesn’t have to be something mysterious or Zen-like,” said Eric Dickson, assistant professor of music and instructor for the FOCUS course. “Anything we do can be done mindfully, so long as we are mentally present for the experience. For example, when you are walking to class, know that you are walking to class.”

As part of the Truman Symposium, FOCUS was one of nine courses for first-year students, each designed with a specific purpose. If there was ever a semester where new students could benefit from mindfulness practices, it was fall 2020. In addition to the regular emotions associated with starting college, these incoming students began their careers during a global pandemic and during a tumultuous election year. FOCUS preceptor Bradley Greathouse helped students realize a small amount of care can go a long way.

“Even if just for five minutes, practicing mindfulness can have a dramatic impact on your day,” Greathouse said. “I personally use meditation to break through the barriers of burnout and fatigue.”

As useful as the information in the FOCUS course was, it was not limited solely to the students enrolled. All symposium courses feature action components. Students in FOCUS took lessons from their classes and incorporated them into events throughout the semester that were open to anyone.

Among the many outreach components developed by students were weekly meditation sessions, as well as mindful activities available in the library’s Wellness Zone. Students also created a mindful campus walk with an audio track that guides participants as they experience the beauty of campus. A sleep aid playlist helps users wind down from their day and fall asleep more easily. A mindful music experience took place in November, and student-designed posters highlighting different ways to manage and mitigate stress were displayed around campus.

“My hope is that these projects will contribute positively to the culture of mental health and wellness on campus,” Dickson said. “They help students see how their experiences can be shaped by their own mental habits, and they provide them with a few tools to help them cope with stress and anxiety.”

The global pandemic will continue to affect lives of college students for the immediate future, and even after it is gone, there will always be papers to write, tests to study for and group projects to complete. Fortunately, the work of the FOCUS course can still help students. A comprehensive list of resources created by the class was added to the University’s Wellness Index.

While the FOCUS course ended with the fall semester, Dickson is teaching a similar one-credit seminar – IDSM 352: Living Mindfully – during the spring semester.
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