With the end of the year quickly approaching, this is a stressful time for everyone, especially for us STEM girlies. It is important for us to get good grades, understand course material, be active in clubs, and meet deadlines which seems to leave little time for self-care which is equally as important. A positive self-care practice we should all regularly incorporate into our lives is “mindfulness”.
By practicing mindfulness, we are able to take a break from the cluttered and noisy world around us, even for 5 minutes. During my own study time, I found myself overwhelmed with the millions of chemistry concepts I needed to catch up on and recognized that I needed a break desperately– and not a two-hour TikTok break. I took to researching healthy activities that wouldn’t require too much time and effort that could allow me to escape my Canvas notifications momentarily.
I found that many websites and YouTube videos endorsed meditating. I am personally inexperienced in the realm of mediation and “finding my om”. Something about sitting completely still in my own silence is a bit daunting and does not feel like something I could just spontaneously do in the middle of Starbucks. So, I found a website that proposed mindfulness activities other than meditating! The website includes “8 Mindful Alternatives to Meditation” and lucky for you, I tried them all and rated them out of 5 ★’s! Below is a brief review of all 8 of the mindfulness activities:
1. Cleaning ★★★★★
This is the definition of productive procrastination! After doing CHEM200 Owl assignments for literal hours, I needed to look at something other than my computer and calculator. I ended up taking out all of the trash cans (4) in my dorm, vacuumed, reorganized my closet, and cleared out my scary snack stash (lots of expired candy). Not only did this anchor me in the present and forced me to focus on my personal environment and dust bunnies, but it also benefitted my roommate and is gonna make moving out so much easier! The article suggests paying attention to little details such as the “texture of a sponge while cleaning”. My nostrils were full of the smell of Clorox wipes, my ears with the roar of my mini vacuum, and my eyes with the sight of a new, sparkly clean room!
2. Walking ★★★★★
When I go on walks, I am usually with friends, a furry four-legged creature, or listening to music, but this time I chose to do without any of those things. After my 9:00 am lecture, I decided to take a walk around campus from Storm Hall to Trader Joe’s. I felt the warm air around me gently hug me while my legs worked to move me from point A to point B. I noticed the way my hair bounced, only occasionally getting in my face. I eavesdropped on what other people around me were saying, from *tea* to academics. I found myself smiling at other people. My body felt like it was on an expedition with no clear endpoint but to simply enjoy the journey. Not all exercise has to take place in a cramped, sweaty gym.
3. Listening to Music ★★★★★
I would consider myself to have a distinct taste in music. I love RnB and beats that make me want to move my body and sing with passion. But when I listen to music, I am typically doing something else along with it, like cooking, studying, or hanging out with friends. Taking time out of my day to just sit and truly listen to the lyrics of my favorite songs was such a fun experience. I found myself resonating more and more with my favorite songs and reflecting on who I was, am, and will be. As a former band kid (clarinet) I paid attention to every crescendo and harmony which made me appreciate the music even more. It was somewhat difficult to stay in the present moment and not let my mind wander off into irrelevant topics, but it felt good being able to come back to simply listening to notes strung together.
4. Dance ★★★★☆
This one is definitely a lot more fun with people. Dancing alone in my dorm to my favorite songs reminded me of when I was in elementary/middle school pretending to be some kind of popstar. I felt youthful and free from my “adult” concerns. My friends and I really enjoy a class offered at the ARC at SDSU called Cardio Dance which occurs on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The class is my favorite form of exercise since it is like a Zumba-style dance party! Pop, hip-hop, Latin, Bollywood, and many more genres are played during the class with the instructor showing fun and relatively easy dance moves to mimic. During these classes, I allow myself to not worry about the other bodies around me, but to just pay attention to my own, every movement, breath, and sweat bead.
5. Yoga ★★★★☆
Before moving to college, I bought a yoga mat so I could practice yoga. I personally have a hard time with the slow movements and overall stillness of the activity. I also struggle a bit with balance which I can improve by practicing yoga more often. Focusing on my breathing while moving made this activity feel very immersive and I felt like I was “one with my mat”. This is definitely an activity I want to get better at and may even seek classes for!
6. Tai Chi ★★★☆☆
This activity definitely reminded me of Avatar and waterbending. I tried this activity multiple times in my dorm and struggled quite a bit since many of the beginner moves were even slower than in yoga! I did enjoy that this activity is mainly performed standing up. Breathing also played a large role in this activity which I enjoyed. I found myself shaking at times when the YouTube instructor on my screen told me to hold a pose. I also noticed that this form of movement includes a lot of arm motions which I feel like we do not pay enough attention to since we are usually typing on a computer or scrolling on a phone.
7. Coloring ★★★★★
I have been coloring since the beginning of Spring semester. I try to incorporate coloring into my daily planner every day! Coloring might initially seem like a childish activity, but even if it is, there is nothing wrong with reverting back to a simpler time when all that mattered was, “which crayon should I use next?” I am such a big advocate of coloring that I have two coloring books of my own and have bought some for my friends and family. I adore its ability to completely consume you. I also enjoy this activity since, unlike scrolling through TikTok, it has an end, when the picture is complete to your liking. It exercises your brain since you are consciously staying (or not) within the lines of an image and carefully deciding which colors compliment others. While coloring, I am mindful of the way my coloring instruments feel across the paper and forgive myself if I accidentally go outside of the lines, something that typically isn’t taken lightly in STEM classes. There are also SO many different kinds of coloring books, intricate, succulents, memes, animals, and so many more. Coloring books are also pretty cheap, especially on Amazon. I HIGHLY recommend!!
8. Conscious Breathing ★★★★☆
Sitting still and breathing can be hard, but when you find yourself in sync with your heartbeat and breathing, you feel a sense of completeness. I feel most in the present when I simply listen to my breathing and feel my chest rise and fall. It forces me to slow down. It is especially hard to exercise this since finals are coming up and all anyone can seem to talk about is how stressed and underprepared they feel. Pushing intrusive thoughts can be difficult, but it feels powerful to be able to place myself in the here and now, even for a few minutes.
After completing each of these activities, I felt refreshed, mentally and physically, and found myself being able to study better and be more kind to myself. Now that you have read my reviews of each of the mindfulness activities, I highly encourage you to try each of these techniques and discover which fits best with you. Make a schedule with your roommates/friends to develop healthy habits!
Stay happy and healthy,
insta: @jadeejachim / sc: @jelisabethj