Mind the Mindfulness

With less than two weeks left until Thanksgiving Break, every day is a flurry of studying, revising, writing, and cramming. As soon as I get to my first class, I fling my backpack down and studiously begin taking notes. The bell rings, and I’m off to my next class. During my spare time, I rush to the library and hunch over a desk to work. During my lunch period, a supposed respite from a busy day, I think about homework while I wait in line for food. After I get my food, I eat as fast as I can. In less than half an hour, I’m done with my meal, and I use the rest of the period to study.When classes end, I’m back in the library with my constant companions: my laptop, my homework, and my notes. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when working in a hectic schedule.

Though students should  stay focused, they should also remember to take the time to destress by being mindful of their surroundings. I’ve noticed that my busy schedule is affecting how I engage with the community. When I walk outside, I rarely notice my surroundings. I hear my friends talking, but their conversations don’t always register. I go to classes, but I barely interact with my classmates before class starts.

It’s hard to accept when you are desperately cramming for a math test, but taking ten minutes to be mindful is actually more beneficial than using that time to review. Studies have shown that mindfulness improves working memory, focus, emotional communication, and also reduces stress.

Although we are nearing the end of the term, it is not too late to change up your routine and practice mindfulness. There is still time left to take a step back from our endless to-do lists. Most of us still have years of high school ahead of us, and while striving to attain academic excellence is part of the Andover experience, the process doesn’t need to be so stressful.

Being mindful isn’t difficult. All you have to do is notice and connect with your surroundings. Greet people on the path, and ask them about their day. Genuinely listen to their answers. Take the chance to observe the changing foliage. Leave your homework and phone in your backpack when you have a few minutes before class and instead have a conversation with your peers. Talk about your favorite TV show, a book you’ve found interesting, or your opinion on an issue. When you wait in line for food, why not say “hi” to the people around you? Engage with the people sitting at your table instead of worrying about what you should do next.

Many people may approach mindfulness with skepticism or see it as another tedious and meaningless task, but it’s actually something that you can do for yourself. Once you start paying attention to your surroundings, you begin to realize that there is a bigger picture; life does not start and stop with you; one bad grade does not define you, and your schedule should not control you. I acknowledge that this may be challenging, but I urge all students to take some time to be more mindful.