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Sit and do nothing; it’s good for you



This coming fall, UFV will become one of the first North American universities to offer a certificate in mindfulness-based teaching and learning (MBTL). Essentially, the certificate is designed for professionals who want to use mindfulness in their workplace, as well as strengthen their own mindfulness practice.

There’s a lot of discussion online regarding the difference between mindfulness and meditation, and to fully dive into what meditation is could take more space than I have. So, essentially, meditation is the age-old practice of slowing the mind and attaining a higher level of consciousness through breathing techniques, visualizations, and/or mantras, depending on what method you choose to practice. Mindfulness, however, is exactly what it sounds like: being mindful of your surroundings, and your thoughts, your bodily sensations. So, mindfulness can be a part of meditation, but meditation isn’t necessarily a part of mindfulness.

UFV’s certificate, with scientific backings and taught through a traditional education system (i.e. university), focuses on the latter and how it pertains to helping people be more mindful in the workplace, and by extension, increasing their work performance as well as their overall well-being. Through this, students will also learn to increase compassion, to self-regulate emotions, and increase social-emotional learning — all traits that will help improve performance and relationships at work.

Understandably, mindfulness and meditation have been shunned by the scientific community in the past. On the surface, it appears that you’re doing nothing but sitting still for an hour, or increasing your awareness of the world and your inner self, and what good can that do?

What some people don’t seem to realize are the immense benefits mindfulness can have. A study conducted through Harvard Medical School found that, for people who don’t react well to traditional methods, such as medication, mindfulness-based meditation can lower levels of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. Another study at Harvard found that clearing your mind for 15 minutes a day (through meditation or present moment awareness) has the ability to change how your genes work, including lowering blood pressure, regulating inflammation, and rewiring circadian rhythms. And on an entirely non-scientific level, go sit on a beach or in a forest sans phone for an hour and tell me you don’t feel better than when you got there.

As someone whose body revolts when given medications such as antidepressants, meditation and mindfulness practices are appealing to me. I don’t vomit, I don’t space out for days at a time, and I don’t feel like I’ve drunk 10 cups of coffee in the span of an hour. After meditating, I’m left feeling still; my thoughts have slowed, and my heart doesn’t feel like it’ll fall out of my mouth if I open it. I feel better prepared to face tasks that daunted me before, and I no longer want to throttle the person whose car alarm goes off for 20 minutes before they do something about it. Essentially, being mindful and practicing meditation makes me a (much) better version of myself.

What’s great about the introduction of this course at a university level is that it’s a way to give the benefits of meditation to people who are skeptical of its effectiveness. It’s giving credibility to something that, despite the immense research affirming its benefits, not everyone believes in. I’m not saying don’t try traditional routes; for some, medication works wonders, and if you know something works for you, do it. What I am saying is to give alternative therapies especially those backed by countless scientific studies a chance, and check out the MBTL certificate for yourself. Who knows? You may just discover a new career path.

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