The University Counseling Service (UCS) Mental Health Newsletter - March 2016 
View this email in your browser

Calming the Chatter

“The brain weighs about 3 pounds, which really isn’t that much when you think about it. Yet it believes it speaks truth to us at every turn. These thoughts, and words, and worries can easily overcome our ability to actually be present and act wisely. Mindfulness is about learning to let go of all that drama, and coming back to what’s actually happening right now.”

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is paying attention to our present moment experience with a spirit of inquiry and non-judging acceptance. It is a way of being with things as they are.

This kind of awareness supports us in responding skillfully to our internal and external experiences, whether we like them or not.

Living mindfully is available to us all the time, but we tend to forget. Mindfulness meditation is a way of remembering and developing this ancient practice in modern times.

Mindfulness programs can be found in healthcare settings, educational institutions, businesses, correctional facilities, and athletic programs.

Who Benefits From Mindfulness Class?

Iowa Students Who…

  • Are highly motivated and stressed out

  • Want to improve focus and concentration

  • Want to be curious and engaged in their lives

  • Sturggle with anxiety

  • Experience chronic pain and/or disease

  • Are happy and healthy and want to build skills to stay that way (even when conditions change)

  • Have experienced loss

  • Experience trouble sleeping

  • Experience mild depression

  • Want to be wise, creative, kind, and successful—personally, academically, interpersonally, and professionally

Do you savor life or let everyday stresses control you?
In other words:  How Mindful Are You?
Take a short Mindfulness Quiz!
Is Mindfulness a Religion?
No, it is not a religion. Mindfulness comes from a 2500 year-old Buddhist meditation practice and is taught in a secular way. 
 No tradition has a monopoly on empathy, love, and kindness. Educator Daniel Rechtschaffen sums it up this way: "Mindfulness does not belong to Christianity, Buddhism, or Taoism, just as the breath we inhale and exhale does not belong to any one of us."
All it takes is 10 Mindful Minutes - TED Talk

How Can I Explore Mindfulness?
In Structured Ways
-University of Iowa Course for Academic Credit---Details available on ISIS

-Mindfulness Foundations: Just This Moment or The Rest of Your Life  PSQF:1027 – 3 Credits
A course for undergraduates interested in learning personal, professional, and academic aspects of mindfulness. Students have opportunity to apply learning to individual interest areas including:  Education, psychology/counseling, human relations, healthcare, business, etc.

-University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
Informational sessions and registration in May for summer sessions:

-Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
Enrolled UI students are welcome to participate in MBSR programs offered at UIHC, as described on our website and are eligible for 50% off.

-Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for Prevention of Depression Relapse
Students may participate in the MBCT program—see website for more details. Many insurance plans cover this group if the participant has a diagnosis of depression and/or anxiety.

-Through Services at UCS:  See "Rap it Up"
On Your Own
“In some of my classes," says Chade-Meng Tan, "after explaining some of the theory and brain science behind Mindfulness, I offer two ways to experience a taste of Mindfulness, the 'Easy Way,' and the 'Easier Way.’”

The creatively-named "Easy Way" is to simply bring gentle and consistent attention to one's breath for two minutes. That's it! Start by becoming aware that you are breathing, and then paying attention to the process of breathing. Every time your attention wanders away, just bring it back very gently.

The "Easier Way" is, as its name suggests, even easier. All you do is to sit without agenda for two minutes. Life really cannot get much simpler than that. The idea is to shift from "doing" to "being," whatever that means to you, for just two minutes. Just be” ~ Chade-Meng Tan (Google Pioneer, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee)
Try a Drop-In Group Right Here on Campus:
a: Mindful@Iowa ; (email symbol here)  This group meets during the semester on Thursdays 7 – 8 pm in Purdue Room, 341 IMU

Enjoy free Exercises and Guided Meditations from Dr Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion Practice website
Anderson Cooper - Why Practice Mindfulness (2 min video)
Why practice mindfulness
I Find It Really Uncomfortable to Sit Still For Too Long. 
Trying to sit cross-legged on the floor?  Yes, it can get uncomfortable. Sit upright in a firm and comfortable chair instead. Or do walking meditation or yoga. Moving meditation is just as beneficial as sitting.
Quick Links

HeadSpace Meditation Tracks (guided)
Online Meditation Timer

Free Yoga Classes @ UIowa Recreation Services

Read More on Mindfulness Research:
UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center
UC Berkeley Greater Good Science
Mindful Magazine website (easy articles)
Mindfulness Research Monthly
What are the Health Benefits of Mindfulness for College Students?
Several studies with college students suggest that the practice of mindfulness leads to
  • Decreases in stress and anxiety
  • Improvements in concentration and attention
  • Increases in self-awareness and overall emotional/mental and physical well-being. 
Practicing mindfulness meditation for brief periods, even 5 or 10 minutes a day, can improve your health.   Mindfulness practice can help us:
  • Be resilient and respond in a healthy way to stress
  • Improve our physical, emotional and mental well-being
  • Positively affect our relationships
  • Improve our ability to focus and concentrate. 
Morrrison, et al, 2013; Jeffery M. Greeson, PhD, MS, PANAS, 2008

What Iowa Students Say About Their Experience With UIHC Mindfulness Programs:

“It wasn’t as easy as I thought it’d be, but it was ten times more rewarding. I think I can use the things I learned in this class the rest of my life.”

“It definitely helped me learn to deal with stress and notice my feelings towards things on a daily basis.”

“Awareness that I have choices in how I relate to thought patterns. I am less stressed, have improved concentration and am more accepting.” 
Take a Few Minutes to Nurture Yourself With Salient Observations About Mindfulness
Engaging with Complexity: Mindfulness in Daily Living
by Bev Klug, Director of Mindfulness-Based Programs, UIHC
Being human is complex.  You probably already know this, but stay with me. 
We have bodies that may be healthy or sick; ignored or obsessed over; judged for their shape, size or ability; or bring us to the heights of sensual pleasure and the depths of physical pain.  We have minds that can think, plan, create, problem-solve, remember and anticipate, leading to a range of incredible achievements to unimaginable destruction for humanity and the planet.  Emotions interconnect with the experiences of the mind and body, allowing us to feel happy, sad, angry, scared and their multiple nuances with variations of intensity.
Amidst all of this, we like what we like, we want what we want, we don’t like what we don’t like and we don’t want what we don’t want.  And yet, here it all is and, despite what we believe to be our best efforts, much of it we can’t control.  This is where it gets really interesting.
Consider these scenarios:
  • You have a test coming up.  You settle into your favorite study spot with the best of intentions to prepare for the test and, ideally, to learn.  Soon, you notice that you are thinking about something totally unrelated. This happens a few times so you decide to check social media, since you’re not really studying anyway.  You discover some bad or intriguing news. Time passes – a lot of it.  Now, realizing that your study time is passing quickly, anxiety arises about how you are going to do on this test, leading to thoughts about possible consequences of not doing well (failing the class, not getting into your desired program, not finishing school or getting a job… fill in your typical patterns of thought here!).  These continue when you are trying to go to sleep that night. (Research supports that consistent mindfulness practices helps us focus, concentrate, and sleep better.) 
  • You are feeling annoyed with your roommate, teammate, or family member.  You’ve asked them nicely to stop a certain behavior. They continue.  You react, becoming overtly angry with them, including behaviors that are neither helpful nor of which you are proud and maybe even get you in trouble legally. (Research supports that consistent mindfulness practice helps us be aware of and accepting of emotions we are feeling, yet respond more skillfully to them.)
  • You are working hard, doing well, accomplishing your goals and getting accolades from people you admire and respect.  Yet, you feel like you’re going through the motions of living, checking things off the to-do list but not feeling very satisfied, even though it seems you should be. In fact, you’re wondering if this is all there is to life. (Research supports that consistent mindfulness practice improves satisfaction and quality of life.)
  • You feel stressed, unhappy, confused, etc.  That doesn’t feel good so you want to feel better.  You reach for alcohol or other drugs, sex, harmful eating or exercise patterns, excessive time on the internet or social media, or other attempts to feel better. In the short-term, maybe you do, in the long-term, you don’t. (Research supports that consistent mindfulness practice helps us to stay with what is happening, reminding ourselves that we can, and make choices wiser than numbing out.)
Mindfulness is the awareness of what we are experiencing as it's happening.  This awareness includes all of our five senses plus thoughts and feelings.  As we intentionally develop this intimacy with our internal and external experiences from an experiential stance of curiosity, acceptance (this is happening now, like it or not), and tenderness, we begin to see how we are living in a constant arising and passing of various conditions which we experience as pleasant,  unpleasant, or neutral.  We try to get more of the experiences we like, get rid of the ones we don’t like and ignore the ones that are neutral. Yet, thoughts, emotions, and sensations arise and pass based on current conditions. Have you every chosen to feel anxious or sad?  It’s like trying to control the weather.  We can be chronically caught in a state of reactivity, trying to control what can’t be controlled or we can cultivate and integrate practices into our daily life that support us in seeing clearly what the current experiences are and engaging fully in making wise and skillful choices in how we relate to them. Thus, we embrace the richness and complexity of being human with the skills to do so!
Research supports that the consistent integration of mindfulness into daily life can have profound effects.  This integration happens over time – it’s not a quick fix.  And, it’s a practice, not just a thinking thing. You can begin by sticking your toe in the water using some of the resources on this page.  If you’d like to dive in and truly develop a foundation for the integration of mindfulness into your life with the guidance of trained, experienced mindfulness teachers, join us for one of our extended programs/classes.  Information at

How Mindfulness Defeats Racial Bias

We are each reminded daily of the way race intersects with judgment in our daily lives, leading to bad decisions and over-reactions, which in the context of criminal justice can have deadly consequences.  There is a solution to implicit racial bias, argues Rhonda Magee: Cultivate moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, and surroundings.

Mindfulness practices actually help against implicit bias and its capacity to cause suffering in our lives. While it won’t end racism, mindfulness and other contemplative practices do support ways of being in the world that reflect less biases that each of us holds.

READ MORE – Including Rhonda Magee’s ColorInsight Practices For Groups:

  Mindfulness in the Movies!
There are some movies that allow us to walk away feeling empowered emotionally and help us to become more mindful and overall better people in our everyday lives. These movies deal with the protagonist becoming aware of the present moment, and through that, gaining the power to overcome their most heated obstacles: Inside Out, Peaceful Warrior, The Lord of The Rings, The Star Wars Epic.  Read More about these movies and their use of Mindfulness:
Rap it Up

So what does this mean for University of Iowa students?
            In addition to the above-mentioned resources, there are several opportunities at the UCS for students who are interested in developing their own Mindfulness Practice.
            Any student interested in working with a therapist to cultivate a mindfulness practice can schedule a consultation to discuss how they could meet that goal.
            We have several therapists trained in Mindfulness-Based Approaches to therapy (including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy).
            You can learn more about our therapists, including ones who incorporate Mindfulness into their work, here.
            We also offer a skills group, ACT on Life, which infuses Mindfulness throughout. Learn more about ACT on Life here. Interested in possibly joining the ACT on Life group?  Schedule a consultation and discuss options with a therapist. 

            UCS staff can provide outreach programs on Mindfulness for Iowa Student Groups or Classes.


 UCS Outreach Programs

Designed and Implemented for Your Student Group or Class!
Covering a Wide Variety of Psychological Topics
Call to Request an Outreach Program
See a List of Program Topics and More Here
"Dwelling in stillness and looking inward for some part of each day, we touch what is most real and reliable in ourselves and most easily overlooked and undeveloped.  When we can be centered in ourselves, even for brief periods of time in the face of the pull of the outer world, not having to look elsewhere for something to fill us up or make us happy, we can be at home wherever we find ourselves, at peace with things as they are, moment by moment.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday
Click here to see the previous month's issue on Positive Psychology

Copyright © 2016 The University Counseling Service (UCS), All rights reserved.

Phone: 319-335-7294

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp