For the typical busy Northwestern student, it feels like every minute of every hour is too precious to waste, but that constant hustle brings lots of stress. If you’re stressed out and needing a break, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has so many resources available to help you recenter, like the Drop-In Meditation Groups that meet every Monday at 3:30 during Spring Quarter.
We know what you’re thinking: If you can’t even spare time for your favorite Netflix show, why should you carve out an hour for meditation? As Dr. Henry Perkins, health psychologist at CAPS, explained, scientific evidence has shown that meditation has many health benefits, especially as neuroscience technology has made it possible to track how the brain changes during a meditation session. Meditation has been proven to increase your focus and attention while decreasing anxiety and stress.
Even after hearing the evidence that show meditation’s benefits, we were still a little skeptical that it could hold up to all of the hype. So we decided to experience it for ourselves.
Naomi: What were your first impressions going into the room itself and meeting the meditation leader Dr. Perkins?
Nina: I was not expecting the room to be the way it was. It was just an ordinary room. It was very soothing. No lights were turned on; there was just a window so we had natural sunlight coming in.
Naomi: It was very casual. You didn’t have to prepare going into it at all.
Nina: The only tool you need is your own brain.
Naomi: A “come as you are” situation, if you will. We did a guided meditation on the breath, so it focused a lot on your breathing through your nose, chest, and stomach. Everyone has to breathe, so it wasn’t as intimidating to me. As a meditation skeptic, it wasn’t as intense as I would expect. It was just sitting in a chair, listening to a doctor talking to you in a soothing voice, and trying to do what he was telling you to do.
Nina: I think it was also helpful that Dr. Perkins explained that it’s not about being able to perfectly clear your mind. It’s more about recognizing when you’re getting distracted and being able to bring your attention back to experiencing the moment. I think that was helpful, because you didn’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself.
Naomi: So how do we feel post-meditation?
Nina: I do feel a little bit calmer. It is pretty nice just to have the time for yourself. I would definitely consider going back. I don’t think it changed my life, but also we only did it once for a couple minutes. Are you less skeptical after trying it?
Naomi: While I don’t think it’s something that I’ll start doing regularly, I do appreciate the experience for what it was. I was able to get out of my active headspace for a while and take some time to just sit in a dark room and breathe. I think that’s very contrary to how we at Northwestern think about time. It’s always like, “If you’re not doing something, everyone else is getting ahead, doing more than you.” Sometimes, there’s a point to there being no point.
Nina: Not every waking moment needs to be dedicated to furthering your career or putting something on your resume.
Naomi: In the free time that we do have, it’s nice to be away from media sometimes. There is something relaxing about sitting back and watching your favorite TV show, but we need time to get away from that too.
Nina: Absolutely. The Internet is just a way of distracting yourself from your own thoughts. On the other hand, meditation was relaxing because instead of being distracted from your thoughts, you’re more introspective. It’s rare that I sit down and observe myself.
Naomi: I agree. The other thing I liked about the drop-in clinic was that it’s very low time commitment. You don’t have to sign up for it; you can just walk in, zero experience, sit down, and get right into it. It’s clear that we came in with different expectations, but it wasn’t a waste of time for either of us. Even if I’m not converted to meditation, I feel like I got some benefit out of it.
Nina: I did too. To me, meditation is strongly linked to self-care. I’m an anxious person, so it was really relaxing and refreshing to just sit with my thoughts for a while. Yay, mediation!
Naomi: Go ‘Cats!
Nina: Go ‘Cats! What a way to end this.
For more information on the CAPS Drop-In Meditation Group, visit the CAPS website. Digital resources are also available through Breathe, a Northwestern exclusive app that includes guided meditations and breathing practices for stress management.
Co-written by Nina Matti and Naomi Wu