Mindful Living LLC Students Use Well-Being Practices to Optimize their Mason Experience

by Whitney Hopler, Communications Director

Mindful Living LLC Students Use Well-Being Practices to Optimize their Mason Experience

Students in our center’s Mindful Living LLC are using the power of well-being practices to optimize their Mason experience. The education they’re engaged in there is bringing positive change to every part of their college life, they said – helping them discover their purpose, make decisions well, build fun and meaningful friendships, develop career readiness skills, decrease stress, and increase concentration as they pursue well-being together.

Experiencing Significant Growth in College

“Joining the Mindful Living LLC has been the highlight of my time in college,” said Ahmed Bubshait, a Criminology, Law and Society major who serves as a peer mentor for Mindful Living students. “The friendships built and memories made will be lasting. The amount of growth that occurred during my time in the LLC made me a better person. Being in the Mindful living LLC provided me with a space to learn how to practice self-care strategies, which helped me to know myself intimately and be more sensitive about others’ unique situations. Also, joining the Mindful Living LLC connected me with faculty members who care about their students academically and personally.”

Mindful Living instructor Katie Clare said that one of her goals for the students is “to help them recognize that every day is a fresh one with a new set of opportunities and that even if we have experience with something we can experience the same thing in a whole new way.” Clare, who is Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, noted that “this emphasis on openness and curiosity is critical, and I keep emphasizing this with all of them.”

Students can experience significant growth from participating in the Mindful Living community, said Mindful Living student Fiona Husch, a Psychology major. “Being in Mindful Living means having a space to grow deeply in a like-minded and supportive community,” she said. “I have learned the importance of caring equally for all parts of my well-being and that if one aspect suffers the other aspects do too. Not only have I learned that importance, I’ve learned ways that work for me to actually engage with my well-being. A lot of people think Mindful Living is just about yoga and meditation, but we work with so much more than that. We work with practices that revolve around regulating our emotions, being resilient in the face of tough situations, and how to be present and aware in our everyday activities. I recommend Mindful Living to both incoming and returning Mason students who are struggling with stress, anxiety, managing all aspects of their life, or are looking for a place to foster their own self-transformation.”

Participating in Mindful Living has given Computational and Data Sciences major Shara Smith the skills she needs to succeed in her various classes at Mason, she said. “Being in this LLC has helped me plan a lot better. I’ve gotten a planner, as I know I can’t remember everything on my to-do list in my head alone. I try not to be too distracted in class by being present and really paying attention to my teacher and the lecture as a whole. Same with homework – I can get distracted really easily, so it helps to ask every now and again, ‘Am I really paying attention/studying?’ It helps me be accountable with myself as a student.”

Well-being topics that the Mindful Living curriculum covers regularly include strengths, values, and resilience. “For the fall semester, I’m using Eric Langshur and Nate Klemp’s book Start Here: Master the Lifelong Habit of Well-Being as the backbone of the course,” said Clare. “This book is focused on building resilience through the thoughtful development of nine key practices – meditation, movement, inquiry, presence, gratitude, compassion, engagement, relationships, and contribution. We cover one of these areas each week and pairs of returning students are asked to lead a practice related to these areas. At the end of the semester, our final class meeting will take place in the common rooms of the building where teams of students will be presenting learning opportunities related to these topics. We will open these sessions up to the other LLCs in the building. Developing these areas should help to increase overall resilience and well-being, and this should have a direct effect on their ability to learn well, to manage stress, and to identify the positive elements in their day-to-day lives.” She added that, “The students have to write weekly journal responses that consider our classroom practice, the outside practice they are asked to engage in, and any short reading assignments. I read each of these journals and provide feedback to each student.”

Sharing Well-Being Learning with All Resident Students

The Mindful Living students mix with the Honors College LLC and Volgenau School of Engineering LLC students to cross-pollinate their communities with ideas and friendships in the Eastern Shore residence hall, where all three of those living learning communities are located. “It’s an interesting combination of students, and while their paths and disciplinary interests really run the gamut, it’s clear that they can all benefit from some strategies that may help them to manage the challenges of life as a college student and frankly just life in general,” said Clare. “They were put in this building together for a reason! We know there are shared challenges and the possibility of shared helpfulness and connection, too.” In the shared LLC environment, she added, “students really seem to have their priorities together” and there is a calm, focused atmosphere in the building.  

Housing and Residence Life wants all of the more than 6,000 students who live in Mason’s residence halls to benefit from learning more about well-being. So starting with the fall 2018 semester, some goals and learning outcomes relating to well-being – and that align with the well-being pathway of the Patriot Experience – are being infused into Mason’s Residential Curriculum. “We want to be intentional about giving all students the opportunity to learn well-being practices,” said Aysha Puhl, Associate Director of Living Learning Communities, Housing and Residence Life. The goals focus on developing positive relationships, learning and practicing self-management strategies to initiate and sustain well-being, and discovering opportunities to expand their understanding of well-being provided by campus partners including our center, the Student Support and Advocacy Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, Mason Recreation, Student Health Services, Campus Ministries, and the Office of Disability, Inclusion, and Multicultural Education. The learning outcomes focus on practicing ways to connect with other students, describing characteristics of healthy friendships and romantic relationships, learning the benefits of healthy sleep habits, managing schedules well, and identifying and using campus resources for help solving problems.

Inspiring Students to Grow Toward Their Purpose

Being a part of Mindful Living has given Smith, who serves as a resident advisor for Mindful Living students, a greater sense of purpose in her life, she said. “I feel better in a spiritual sense. I feel more connected to those around me. Being an RA especially helps with that, as I know that I have people in my community who need me.”

Mindful Living students can reflect on all they’re learning through meditation times together. Meditating, said Smith, “gives me time to touch base with myself. Considering that my job can be very high stress, I find this helpful.”

During a meditation that was part of Mindful Living’s fall 2018 retreat, Clare said, a student discovered a powerful new sense of purpose. “We were fortunate enough to have a sound bath meditation facilitated for us with Tibetan singing bowls toward the end of the second day of the retreat. One student reported that during that immersive, experiential meditation, she saw her future in an entirely new way. She realized she was pursuing the wrong concentration for her major and thus the wrong career path. She realized the concentration that she should have been pursuing and what it would allow her to do. She met with her advisor the very next week to change her concentration.”

Being a part of Mindful Living is a source of inspiration every day, said Smith. “I find it a lot easier to read energies. I feel that being present can allow me to really be attentive to those I’m interacting with. I try to write down what I’m grateful for everyday and it makes even my hardest days a bit easier.”

Bubshait encourages other Mason students to consider participating in Mindful Living themselves. “The Mindful Living LLC is a space that allows for personal growth, development, and an opportunity to share and teach others,” he said. “I would highly recommend joining the Mindful living LLC to anyone who wants to learn and develop strategies that provide enjoyment, calmness and most importantly a sense of life purpose.”

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