A new interdisciplinary faculty group hopes to employ the practice of mindfulness to help students, staff and faculty stay grounded and lessen anxiety and stress.
“Management of stress is especially critical for college students,” writes Associate Professor of Psychology Julie Newman Kingery, who leads the Faculty Mindfulness Cohort. “Recent work suggests we are seeing rising levels of stress, anxiety and depression that are increasing the burden on our counseling centers.”
Kingery notes that studies on mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques, such as breathing exercises and meditation, have found “reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression” among college students, as well as “better adjustment across the college transition, and improvements in sleep quality and self-compassion.”
The new faculty group — which includes Kingery, Associate Professor of Psychology Jamie S. Bodenlos, Professor of Dance Donna Davenport, Associate Professor of Dance Michelle Iklé and Associate Professor of English Laurence Erussard — meets monthly to discuss mindfulness strategies and their efficacy, and this fall attended a teaching workshop titled “Contemplative Practices in Higher Education” at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, N.Y.
At the workshop, the cohort joined participants and presenters from a wide range of professions in exploring mindful listening and practices, specifically related to connecting with others and understanding difference, which Kingery intends to implement in future semesters.
“What I learned by attending the workshop was that the types of mindfulness practices that I have incorporated into my seminar, such as meditation, deep breathing and yoga, represent one small component of the broader range of strategies that fall under the category of ‘contemplative practices,’” says Kingery.
Iklé says that “it was inspiring to hear the many different mindfulness perspectives and to experience new strategies and applications with fellow HWS colleagues in other disciplines. We left the workshop inspired to develop more mindfulness practices here at the Colleges and for the local community.”
The professors all have previous experience with contemplative practices. Bodenlos, for example, includes mindfulness in her seminar on health psychology. Based on techniques learned at the workshop, she intends to restructure the course to focus on stress, mindfulness and health. Davenport is currently teaching “The Mindful Body,” a new first-year seminar that integrates yoga philosophy, mindful learning practices, and social justice theories. Erussard, meanwhile, interweaves lessons on mindfulness into classes such as “Medieval Genres” and “Malory,” a senior seminar.
The Faculty Mindfulness Cohort has received support from the Katherine D. Elliott ’66 Faculty Innovation Grant program. The members hope to share their expertise with other faculty through Center for Teaching and Learning workshops and a Faculty Lunch Talk on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019 in the Common Room. In addition, the Faculty Mindfulness Cohort will offer a Mindful Movement session on Wednesday, Dec. 12 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts, studio 104. The session will include strategies to help ease worries and stress for students, faculty and staff, using body scans, breathing techniques, physioballs and stretching exercises. No experience is necessary and all are welcome.