The importance of mindfulness for graduate students

Mindfulness is so important that ASU created the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience in 2017. But what exactly is mindfulness and why is it so important? 

“The simplest definition of mindfulness is to be present,” said Teri Pipe, Chief Well-Being Officer at ASU. “To be fully present and engaged.”

Mindfulness is especially important for graduate students, a population that faces unique stressors. In the midst of juggling regular coursework, work and life, grad students have the added pressure of becoming an expert in their field.

Some of this stress is good, said Pipe, but not all. This is where mindfulness comes into play so that you can bring your stress levels back to your baseline. That way your stress isn’t consistently building throughout the day, causing you to lose sleep or have physical tension.

“In terms of the physical body, the way that mindfulness can really help is that it acts on the nervous system and on the digestive system, basically every system,” said Pipe. “We found that it can lower blood pressure. It can help regulate blood sugar.”

Eating is also a difficult balancing act for graduate students. Pipe says students struggle often with either stress eating, mindless eating, or forgetting to eat because of stress. Paying attention to your body so you don’t miss a body signal or override it is important.

Mindfulness can also help with interpersonal relationships and communication. “When we gain agency and power and self-awareness, then that’s sort of contagious,” said Pipe. “People can tell when you go into a room and you have that sense of presence.”

One of the hardest obstacles to being mindful is simply remembering to be mindful. Pipe suggests attaching mindfulness to an activity that you regularly do, such as driving or brushing your teeth. For example, instead of zoning out or thinking about your day, focus on how you’re brushing each tooth and the taste of your toothpaste. 

Along with hosting events, programs may elect to bring mindfulness workshops to individual classes or cohort meetings. This year, the center visited the entire incoming graduate cohort at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Pipe says they are also developing content for an app to aid students with mindfulness.

We invite you to explore more about mindfulness at ASU’s Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience, which has many tips on how to be mindful and resources to help you practice mindfulness. The center’s main location is on the downtown campus, though it has a presence on each campus and online.