Take time to focus on yourself

January 14, 2020

During the second installment of "New Year, New You," Jacklynn Paten encourages you to take a few minutes each day to clear your head to de-stress, re-center and prioritize your mental health.

You can drink water. You can eat healthy. You can get eight hours of sleep. But if you don’t address what is going on in your head, Jacklynn Paten says it won’t really matter.

Once a bit of a skeptic about prioritizing self care practices like meditation — after all, who has all that time? — Paten says she’s now a strong advocate. Paten, Graduate Studies marketing and events coordinator, says she’s learned it’s essential for improving mental health. She says science shows meditation has many benefits including: Improving attention and concentration, preserving aging brains and reducing stress. 

“We live in a society where it is seen as selfish to take care of yourself.  We all neglect our mental health. But we need to change that. We all have traumas and many of us have anxiety; I know I do,” says Paten, “And if we don’t find ways to address those, like meditation, we can’t be our best selves.”

So Paten says she reached out to MHealthy to create a meditation program: Mindful Meditation Mondays: it’s 10-minutes every other Monday at 3 p.m. in Mardigian Library room 1208. Dates are: Jan. 27, Feb. 10, Feb. 24, March 9, March 23, April 6 and April 20.

Paten says all are welcome. Just bring a blanket or come as you are.

What happens at Meditation Mondays? 

You’ll find a comfortable place to sit — if sitting on the floor isn’t for you, there are couches and chairs. I typically have a theme, like gratitude, for the day to provide a focus. We then close our eyes and start intentionally breathing. It’s breathing slowly and noticing your inhale and exhale. It’s about bringing awareness to our minds just for a few minutes. But if your mind wanders — let’s say you start thinking about what you need from the grocery store after work— that’s ok. Acknowledge the thought and move back to focusing on your breathing. My mind can wander too. But the important thing is to bring yourself back to breathing. We end the class with a few words and go back to our days. We have this on a Monday because meditation really does help start the week off right.

If someone isn’t ready to go to Meditation Mondays or it doesn’t work in their schedules, what are some things they can do on their own?

If you are lucky enough to have an office, shut your office door during your lunch, stretch and meditate. If you want a guided meditation, I like the Calm App. If you want an indoor quiet place away from your office, I suggest the EIC study room. It’s so beautiful with it’s natural light and the wildlife coming up to the windows.

If you work in a cubicle, how can you take a break during the day for clarity?

Even without space and privacy you can still take a few moments for you. It won’t be a full meditation, but you can do quick breath work. Take a deep basic belly breath. Put your hand on your belly and inhale for a few moments and then exhale. Concentrate on your intentional breathing. Do this five or 10 times depending on what you are comfortable with. It’s just a good grounding experience and it takes seconds.

What would you say to someone who was skeptical about this like you were?

We tell ourselves that ‘we must always be busy.” It’s a way we demonstrate our productivity and worth. I understand that meditation might look like you doing nothing, but you are practicing something and making an investment. You are investing time into yourself and into your health. And the payoff will be clarity, anxiety relief and a sense of calm. You can feel the energy of the room change after meditating. Come and see.

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