Who are the CAPS Mindful Ambassadors?
Mindful Ambassadors are a group of student volunteers, working in a program of the Counseling & Psych Services department of Campus Health. They receive ongoing training in select mindful practices and how to share them. Ambassadors go to various venues on campus to present brief Mindful Moments – classrooms, residences halls, “Greek” houses, campus clubs and organizations, and other campus programs, during which they are invited to present.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the name for something that we all know about, and sometimes even do: paying attention. As a practice, mindfulness means something a little more. It means paying attention in a special way: a) consciously; b) without judgment; c) with relaxation.
Mindful exercises are based on a scientific understanding of how our minds and bodies work, and are the subjects of continuing research. Over the last three decades and more, there have been many studies on the benefits of regular mindful practice for college students: stress goes down, sleep improves, grades improve, and relationships take a turn for the better.
Mindfulness is a universal quality. Learning mindful practice is not religion, hypnosis, or brainwashing. It is not daydreaming, or "blanking your mind." Students who do mindful exercises regularly find that their minds are clearer (not vacant), sharper (not gullible), focused (not wandering), and more focused on purpose (not spaced out). Physically and emotionally, practitioners feel less disturbed by stress, and thus more patient with people and situations. These qualities help with studies, personal relationships, and life satisfaction.
Why are we interested in mindful practices at the University of Arizona?
The goal of higher education is to grow in knowledge and skills for a successful life. We know that stress gets in the way of optimal performance. Mindful practices are valuable tools in a students’ tool chest of stress-reducing techniques. Mindfulness can help you tap your inner strengths to be calmer, more directed and maximize your effectiveness to make the most of your opportunities at UA and beyon
Benefits of regular practice of mindful techniques such as the ones we teach, for as little as 10 minutes a day, can help you let go of unnecessary tension and improve your sense of well-being and your ability to cope with stress. You may find these practices useful in a variety of experiences throughout the day, in addition to helping you study, go to sleep, or relax more in social situations.
What programs do the Mindful Ambassadors offer?
The group currently offers two types of presentations:
1. Mindful Moments: These are 15-20-minute presentations designed to introduce participants to mindfulness and allow them to experience one or two brief mindfulness exercise, first-hand. The exercises are designed to help students release tension, clear their minds, and restore their energy. They can be offered at the beginning or end of a class or meeting, before an exam, or in other settings where time is short, but interest is high!
2. “Full” Workshops: These are 30-60 minute presentations, designed to introduce students to mindfulness but allow them to experience three or four different exercises, giving a broader experience of possible mindful exercises for students to use.
Some Comments from workshop participants:
"Some things that I go to, I start to think, 'When will this be over?' Not with this one!"
"I wanted it to be longer!"
"Your voices were so calming."
"I need you on CD!"
"I was thinking, 'I don't want this to be over!'"
"I came in with a little headache . . . I feel so much better now."
"I feel like I could literally laugh forever!"
Feedback from Mindful Ambassadors on the impact of being a Mindful Ambassador:
• Less overwhelmed with work
• Less exhausted; can think and process better
• Decisions/actions are more purposeful
• “It feels like a weight has been lifted from my body, my mind feels clear and light, and I can engage in my work more easily and enjoyably.“
• More patient
• More empathetic
• More acceptance
• Easier to take a moment before reacting
• Less quick to anger
• “I breathe before I speak, which allows me to think longer on what I was about to say, and this often allows me time to either soften my words or decide not to even make certain comments.”
• "I feel grateful every day to be a part of the program for my own self-care, and to be trained to share these practices with others. It could not have come at a better time in my medical training!" - TB, medical student
• "I have gained such a sense of empowerment for my own well-being and happiness. Mindful Ambassadors has taught me how to transform many of my day-to-day experiences into a sense of long term, sustainable peace and self-worth. This has been even more meaningful because I know I'm becoming equipped with the skills to empower others as well."- AR, undergrad
An excellent article on various related initiatives can be seen at the UA News http://uanews.org/story/got-a-second-slow-down-and-put-mind-over-madness
o Center for Compassion Studies
(classes for meditation, Yoga Nidra, Cognitively Based Compassion Training)