We’re just about halfway through the quarter, and midterms, papers, and the desire to maintain an active social life may be causing some stress to all of our daily lives right about now. Wouldn’t it be nice to take a break? Well, you’re in luck! The department of Campus and Student Resilience decided to help motivate students, faculty, and staff to take some time out of their days to relax with their Stop, Breathe, and Think Mindfulness Challenge. The challenge lasts five days, beginning May 1st and ending the 5th, and encourages participants to meditate once a day, for all five days. Worried that you don’t know how to meditate? Don’t worry — by signing up for the challenge, you will receive a text every day for the first week of May with a link to a short (and fun!) guided meditation practice that will support your wellbeing and resilience. What’s great about guided meditation is that there is assistance when trying to reach a calm and mindful state, some are even self-guided so that you can go at your own pace, if that sounds like more your style.
So you get to relax your mind every day, and reap the other benefits of meditation, like improving your immune system, lowering your blood pressure, increasing your ability to concentrate, and reducing stress — sounds divine, right? How about these other benefits of meditation, like increasing work efficiency, developing more creative problem solving skills, and providing better sleep, all of which are perfect for those of us wanting to do the best we can in the classroom during this midterm season.
Right now you’re probably wondering “wait, they want me to participate in a challenge that’s actually really good for me? Sounds too good to be true. What’s the catch?” The answer is that there is no catch; the department of Campus and Student Resilience just wants to share the experience of meditation with as many people as possible. In fact, they’re offering prizes to increase the desire for participation! Every participant who completes all five days of the meditation challenge will be entered into a raffle to win some really cool swag, including a $100 gift certificate to the Stop, Breathe, & Think online store, KIND bar snacks and merch, along with some other great prizes. So, rest, benefits for the mind and body, and free stuff? Yeah, you’re hearing that right. If you’re already itching to hit that sign up button before you’ve reached the end of the article, just click here.
The challenge taking place in May has a greater significance than just giving everyone a refreshing boost to make it to the end of the quarter. May is national meditation month, as well as national mental health awareness month (MHAM), so what better way to celebrate than getting our campus community to practice meditation together to kick off week one? MHAM was started in 1949 by Mental Health America to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illnesses, and help reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five Americans will be affected by a mental health illness in their lifetime, and many more of us are impacted through our friends and family that are affected. This month is to commemorate those who struggle with mental illness, to show solidarity between those who struggle and those who are comfortable with their mental state, and educate the world about the importance of mental health — it is for everyone, because we all have a mental health of our own.
Try celebrating the month by visiting UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) and check out some of their events like free drop-in meditations or workshops, or download some of their free guided meditations to try along with the challenge, or to help you remain practicing after it’s ended. Check in with yourself and those you care about throughout the month, because we are all affected by life’s challenges differently, and, although we may not all have a mental illness, we all have mental health. Take time during May to practice building resilience in your own life and help friends and family build resilience of their own through meditation and communication.
Sign up for the challenge here anytime before May 1st, and join the other students, faculty, and staff that have decided to give meditation a try. Maybe the challenge will even inspire you to incorporate meditation into your everyday life after it has ended, or maybe it will be that one thing you signed up for on a whim that gave you the boost you needed to power through a stressful time. Let us know how the challenge goes for you by commenting here or online, and share your experiences of the benefits of meditation with those around you, so that they may want to try to benefit from it, as well. Good luck with resilience building, and happy mindfulness challenging!
Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.