Student mental health is in decline, financial pressure on undergraduates is a key issue. Meditation and mindfulness may be able to help.
Students are increasingly calling upon mental health and counselling support while at university according to Open Access Government1. Almost 9 out of 10 students are experiencing stress, and 3 out of 4 report feelings of anxiety. The proportion of students identifying as having a mental health condition grew five-fold in the last decade.
The exact reasons for the spiralling rates of poor mental health amongst students are unclear. However, because of the universality of the problems, widespread trends in society are likely to have a mediating role. Amongst the factors thought to be contributing to these high levels of stress, financial pressures play a prominent role. With more student taking on unprecedented levels of debt at a young age, there is inevitably a greater risk to mental health. Worry about student debt can lead to increased anxiety, linked to both academic performance and long term employment prospects.
The thought of having to pay back a large student loan can translate to increased pressure on individual assignments, ‘to pay back the loan I will have to get a well-paid job, for which I will need to get good grades’. Put simply, for some students, success in their undergraduate studies can appear to be absolutely essential for life long success. Given, the cost of buying a home, decreasing job security, worsening employment conditions, some undergraduates are experiencing a heightened fear of failure. Fear not only linked to their grades but the prospect of long term debt, low wages, and general financial insecurity.
When academic stress provokes a sense of challenge it is typically seen as a good thing, linked to self-efficacy and a sense of competence and achievement. However, if stress becomes a threat, a whole range of different mental constructs engage which can include fear and anxiety. A review of the evidence from cognitive psychology provides clear indications of how meditation and mindfulness can be used to develop resilience to stress in higher education, improving wellbeing and quality of life.
Students reporting mental health and wellbeing issues had risen fivefold in the last decade. Yet there is evidence that specifically designed meditation and mindfulness methods can help.
There is growing evidence that the mental health and wellbeing of young people in the UK is in decline. This pattern is particularly pronounced among students in higher education (HE). According to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)1, the proportion of university students reporting a mental health condition grew five-fold in the last decade. However, studies from cognitive psychology and contemplative science have started to signpost approaches able to offer support for students dealing with issues such as anxiety, stress, procrastination, and motivation.
Not unsurprisingly, problems with mental health and wellbeing can have a profound impact on a student’s ability to perform academically and their willingness to complete their chosen course of study. Serious mental health problems are rarely restricted just to academic matters and can influence all areas of life. In some universities, as many as 25% of the total student body has engaged with or are waiting to access wellbeing services1.
From a scientific perspective, there is a range of mixed messages coming from meditation research. There are individual studies that suggest meditation or mindfulness can have a positive impact on specific mental health and wellbeing issues, but regrettably, the results are rarely replicated or strongly supported by strategic reviews. However, by approaching student mental health using instruments from cognitive psychology and neuroscience, some clear strategies for using meditation and mindfulness emerge. These centre mainly on understanding the known constructs that underpin obstacles to successful engagement with HE
Although every student is different and the challenges each faces is unique, the science indicates there are common factors to many of the academic obstacles they face. It would be an oversimplification to suggest that the same meditation is beneficial for every student. But an appropriate method (one able to tackle their underlying problems) is likely to bring some benefit leading to a more positive engagement with academic work and improve all-round wellbeing.
“Training in mindfulness, like anything needs to be consistent to bring results and that’s what a structured eight week course, complete with group work and individual home practice is designed to do. It is perfect for those who are completely new and those looking to commit more to their current practice with the support of the course, the group and an instructor.
The course will provide you with the opportunity to learn a combination of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Cognitive Therapy techniques, through formal and informal practices that can be easily integrated into your daily life, including mindfulness of eating, breath, bodily sensations, thoughts, feelings, sounds and movement, as well as a number of other positive psychology techniques and thought experiments that support the process.”
Mindfulness for Runners: Module 1 – Foundation and focus
Sunday 24th March sees the half day 1st Module – Foundation and focuses “From Autopilot to Presence” at Fort Amherst, Chatham. the event takes place between 10 am and 1 pm
“This half-day module designed by RUNZEN introduces participants to the key elements that help us bring mindful awareness to the experience of the body and mind whilst running.
The module includes mindfulness meditations in stillness, gentle movement and running. We will guide you through a range of mindfulness practices before enjoying an easy-paced run around the Great Lines Heritage Park. The invitation for the whole day is simply to be curious about our experience, and each practice is followed by an opportunity to share as a group what we may have discovered.”
A strong correlation between cognitive decline and berry consumption is well established.
As regular visitors to this blog will know we are committed to delivering improved brain function through reliable meditation methods. However it’s clear that practicing meditation while maintaining habits linked to cognitive decline like smoking or eating unhealthy foods will reduced the benefits of your practice. This is one of the problems of researching meditation, regular meditators tend to adopt lifestyles generally associated with improved health and wellbeing (like eating berries), so separating the benefits of regular meditation from eating less meat or not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol becomes problematic. This is a key point to consider, adopting one measure likely to boost brain health has to be seen in a wider context. The benefits from meditation will be meditated positively or negatively by a range of factors.
Scientific findings confirm that many berries are generally a good source of a substance called flavonoids, particularly anthocyanidins which in turn are correlated to improved brain function. I recently followed some links posted by Michael Gregor MD to key research into this area. The Nurses’ Health Study1 found that a greater intake in blueberries and strawberries appeared to slow down the rate of cognitive decline across a very large population. Allowing for a number of other confounding factors the participants that consumed berries had an improved performance in a range of cognitive tests indicating a brain age 1.5 to 2.5 years younger when compared to non berry consumers.
In conclusion regular meditation has been shown to reduce cognitive ageing by 7 years at the age of 50. It seems probable that additional support to brain health can be achieved through combining meditation with changes to lifestyle such as an improved diet.
Brain Renewal Meditation – Compassion based mindfulness designed to improve wellbeing and maintain cognitive function for all ages.
Meditate in Canterbury
Brain Renewal Meditation (BRM) is a compassion based mindfulness meditation which helps to maintain brain function and supports wellbeing. It is secular, can be practiced by anyone and is simple to learn. No previous experience or special training is necessary, just come and practice. This method requires meditators to sit comfortably, typically in a chair and to follow the instructions of the experienced teacher.
Based on a traditional method, BRM is now available to people that want to meditate in Canterbury and across Kent. This approach has been developed through engagement with the latest scientific research and is taught by an experienced meditation teacher trained in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, Stephen Gene Morris. A weekly BRM class is held in Canterbury, it is suitable for adults of all ages. Contact us for more details.
It has long been established that aspects of brain health and physical wellbeing can be improved by regular meditation. BRM is simple and intuitive and includes three elements closely associated with a range of health benefits; compassion, mindfulness and awareness of both self and other.
Unfortunately the performance of the human brain typically starts to decline before the age of 30, signs are apparent in our 40’s and mild cognitive impairment and dementia can develop in later life. The evidence shows that regular meditation is linked to maintaining a younger healthier brain, this obviously can have great benefits no matter what our age.
Is it suitable for non meditators?
Many people attending are likely to be new to meditation or have limited experience.
Will I be able to do it?
Almost everyone can do it, it is a form of mind training so it may require some concentration but it is appropriate for adults of all ages.
Is the teacher qualified or experienced?
Our teachers tend to be among the most qualified and experienced of any meditation teachers. The Canterbury class is run by a trained cognitive psychologist/neuroscientist with extensive experience of traditional and contemporary meditation systems.
Are discounts available for advanced bookings?
Yes as we teach relatively small groups we cut down on a lot of admin time if people book several weeks at a time. We pass these savings on to our meditators. Significant discounts are available for bookings of 3 weeks, 5 weeks or 10 weeks. Contact us for more details: email@example.com
I can’t get to a class but I want to practice
We also run online meditation classes and 1 to 1 sessions, get in touch for more details.
Are there minimum age requirements to enter the event?
This is an adult meditation class so it is open to everyone over the age of 18.
What are my transport/parking options for getting to and from the event?
There is very limited parking at the venue, a range of public car parks are within walking distance. Canterbury can be accessed through a range of public transport options.
What can I bring into the event?
Just yourself, no special clothing or equipment is necessary
How can I contact the organiser with any questions?
#Anxiety in middle age linked to higher risks of #dementia. If you suffer from moderate or high levels of anxiety act today!
Anxiety in middle age linked to higher risks of dementia
It is no surprise that anxiety at any age is not good for you, anyone that has experienced strong feelings of anxiousness knows how unpleasant they can be. But the recent revelations that there is a proven link between anxiety in middle aged and late onset dementia is shocking news. Details of research published at the BMJ Open website describe how over an interval of a decade, midlife anxiety is linked to increased risk of dementia.
“The main point is to protect yourself from increased risks of developing late stage dementia”
Stephen Gene Morris
There are three issues that jump out of the report for me. Firstly that medium and strong forms of anxiety are dangerous, they should carry government health warnings. If you suffer from anxiety don’t let this report worry you further, take it as a sign that it’s time to do something. Secondly I don’t like the ten year interval between the reported anxiety and a diagnosis of dementia. It suggests that day to day living doesn’t return brain function and structure to ‘normal’ after strong bouts of anxiety, we don’t automatically recover from the wear and tear. But on a more positive note the study describes anxiety as a ‘modifiable risk factor’. That means you can probably do something about it!
Anxiety is not the only lifestyle or behavioral factor associated with dementia but the science shows it does matter. So if you suffer from anxiety what can you do? Firstly take action to roll back the behaviours that lead to medium and strong forms anxiety. As someone who has suffered with this condition I know that is easier said than done, but at least acknowledge that you need to do something. Meditation was the intervention that worked for me, compassionate meditation! It might seems strange I know, but by generating compassion I gradually dissolved almost all of the strong anxiety I had. The main point is to protect yourself from increased risks of developing late stage dementia. Your solution doesn’t have to be linked to meditation, but if you only do one thing today plan to reduce your levels of anxiety.
Stephen Gene Morris is a meditation teacher and trained scientist, he has taught meditation to hundreds of students of all ages. If you’d like to attend a class or take part in an online session get in touch. Sign up to the free newsletter for all the latest brain health news and help.
Katy Perry and how she used meditation to deal with anxiety and stress.
Katy Perry meditation and anxiety
In a Newsweek feature from earlier this year Katy Perry revealed in detail how she uses meditation to deal with stress and anxiety. Katy is not the only celebrity to talk openly about the role of meditation in their challenges of day to day living. She has also spoken and written about meditation on numerous occasions. The internationally recognised singer makes some crucial points about meditation reported by the article, in particular that we have to invest in our brain health. While some people may be resilient enough never to suffer from mental health difficulties this is not the common experience. Research is showing that increasing numbers of young people are suffering from depression, and the ranks of adults with dementia is set to double over the next 30 years.
“Brain health impacts on all aspects of our mind and body, meditation is one of the most reliable methods we have to maintain and improve brain function and structure.”
Stephen Gene Morris
Katy goes beyond using meditation to simply cope with her busy life, declaring that the stillness she finds in practice gives her greater mental and physical strength, and enables her to realise her ‘authentic self’. She uses meditation based breathing exercises to gain some instant relief when she feels anxious. According to the report, the particular form of meditation favoured by Katy is Transcendental Meditation (TM), a method brought to the West from India over 60 years ago. Anxiety and stress can impact on different people in different ways and one form of treatment may not suit everyone. But there is growing anecdotal and scientific evidence that regular forms of meditation can have profound and long lasting effects on both stress and anxiety.
If you’d like to attend a meditation class, receive 1 to 1 training, or engage with online meditation guidance get in touch.
Newsweek feature can be found here. Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com
Dementia help and advice podcast. A potential cure for dementia
I was tipped off about an Australian documentary that featured a potential cure for different forms of dementia. As unlikely as it seemed I thought I would take a look. The short item was on a regular Sunday night show screened on the Nine Network called 60 Minutes. Rather than comment here, listen to the podcast, then take a look at the Youtube clip. I’d be really interested to know what you think.
To subscribe to future editions of this free podcast click here.
A leading TV show suggests Australian scientists may be close to a cure for different forms of dementia!
Australian documentary suggests a cure for dementia may be close
It was my impression that a cure for dementia was some distance away. Dementia is a complex syndrome that encompasses a number of different illnesses that appear to have both lifestyle and genetic causes. But today my attention was drawn to an episode of 60 minutes, an award winning TV show broadcast on Australia’s Nine network.
Personally I am skeptical of any potential ‘silver bullet’ cure for Alzheimer’s dementia, vascular dementia and different forms of early onset dementia. There is every chance that each of these diverse illnesses has a number of different contributory factors. However when I was told to about the 60 minute video I was happy to watch it with an open mind. Essentially an Australian scientist has been carrying out research in a small town in Colombia where the residents have a 50% probability of developing early onset dementia, leading to premature death before the age of 50. In identifying a genetic cause for the early onset dementia the researchers felt sure it would open the door to a cure for both vascular and Alzheimer’s dementia within five years. The show was broadcast in 2017 so if the work had progressed I would have expected to see more interest in the project by now. A quick search through the internet failed to find significantly more details than were contained in the actual TV show.
Feel free to take a look at the clip and if anyone out there uncovers more information about this project I’d welcome an email with some details. There is a fine line to tread between sensationalist claims and promising scientific research. I’m not yet sure which category this TV show falls into, take a look and make up your own minds.