BY LEAH JOANNA HOWITT
It’s not unusual for me to go through an entire day, or week even, where I am constantly thinking about what is going to happen next. What to study, what to apply for, who to call, what I need to buy. It’s an endless stream of information and people and events and textbooks and calculus and sociology – it’s overwhelming. Often, the easiest way to deal with this barrage is to constantly push worries farther and farther away and keep barreling toward the future. As college students, I feel that we are especially susceptible to getting caught up in this kind of bubble.
Mindfulness is a way to counter this stressful path of living in constant apprehension of the future. It can be as simple as awareness of the present moment, or concentration on a focal activity such as breathing or walking. Part of mindfulness is also an acceptance of what is currently happening, and to express an acknowledgement for it, though this may be uncomfortable and counterintuitive at times.
Although the two may not seem connected, mindfulness can help us become more sustainable in several ways. In the modern world it is becoming increasingly difficult to pay attention to our natural surroundings. Nature is fading quickly from everyday awareness as most of us live in this shell of a manufactured world. We are usually protected from natural events like storms, we sleep under roofs that hide sunrises, and many drive home or are inside during sunsets. As a result, we lose the rhythm of the natural world, and it’s easy to stop noticing the present passing of each day. If we are not connected to the natural world in everyday life, it is harder to be motivated to pursue sustainable activities like not eating red meat, or biking, because we are not as connected to the systems these activities would benefit. Mindfulness encourages taking time to notice and breathe in natural rhythms, which can lead to both increased psychological and physical wellness, while also encouraging support for sustainable pursuits.
In other ways, the connection between mindfulness and sustainability is slightly less obvious. Being aware in the present moment can have an impact in the smallest yet helpful ways of thinking, such as turning off lights when leaving a room, or paying attention to how long a shower is taking. Even being mindful while shopping for products like shampoo or conditioner can make a difference, so that less harmful for the environment goods are purchased on impulse.
UCLA students and faculty can get more involved in mindfulness through online or in-person classes at the UCLA Mindfulness Research Awareness Center. There are student discounts, and different ways to get involved, such as volunteering at workshops. In addition, anyone is welcome to join free 25-minute drop-in meditation sessions hosted every day on or around campus:
Monday, 12:30 pm, Ronald Reagan Hospital, Meditation Room (#1109)
Tuesday, 12:30 pm, Luskin Public Affairs building, Room 3343
Tuesday, 5:15 pm, John Wooden Center West, Counseling & Psychological Services Conference Room 1412
Wednesday, 12:30 pm, Powell Library, 2nd floor lobby
Thursday, 12:30 pm, Hammer Museum, Billy Wilder Theater