IUPUI's CAPS Uses Meditation to Fight Stress

A group of 10 or so students talk, laugh, and check their phones as they roll out brightly colored mats to sit on. They’re  waiting for the free Mindfulness Meditation practice offered by IUPUI’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to begin.

One student has already assumed his position: eyes closed, back straight, legs crossed, and his hands placed atop his knees. A few more students stroll in carrying their mats. They place them down, stretch out, and get comfortable. Not a second later, a side door to the room opens, and in walks the instructor of the session. She greets the group, asks everyone to get comfortable and close their eyes, and then it begins.

CAPS offer the free weekly mindfulness meditation group as a way for students to unwind and relieve stress. The group, which is led by CAPS staff psychologist Michelle Doeden, Ph.D., HSPP, has been offered at IUPUI since 2012.

“Mindfulness meditation is intentional practice of mindfulness, in which we bring attention to our experience in the moment with acceptance and non-judgment,” said Dr. Doeden. “It is not about emptying the mind, but rather bringing awareness to our thoughts and directing our focus.”

In addition to the free weekly mindfulness meditation group, CAPS also offers students the chance to participate in a variety of mindfulness groups that occur during the school year.

“For most of our groups, we have a pre-group meeting to determine if the group will be a good fit, and participants commit to attending as many of the group sessions as they are able.” said Dr. Doeden.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Management is a six to eight week group offered at the beginning and middle of each semester. The group allows participants to learn about mindfulness and practice different meditation techniques. Mindful Movement is a six week group offered once per semester. This group combines yoga poses and mindfulness to help participants become more aware of the connection between their mind and body.

The final group, Unwind Your Mind, is a three to four week group offered at the end of the semester. Its aim is to help participants learn to manage stress and appreciate the simple pleasures of everyday life. To take part in these groups, students must first contact CAPS in order to join.

Regarding the mindfulness meditation groups offered at IUPUI, Dr. Doeden said, “Most students who join our groups have heard about mindfulness or meditation through someone else, and are open to trying it because what they have been doing to manage stress has not been working.”

This was true for IUPUI student, Jacob Biggs. Biggs is new to mindfulness meditation and attended his first session Oct.7, but he is hopeful that it will be the key to helping him unwind and relax.

“I have some stress in my life, and I want to find a way to get it out,” said Biggs. “This seems like an interesting way, and it’s nice to be alone with my thoughts for a while.”

According to an article published by the American Psychological Association, mindfulness meditation can help those that practice it by reducing stress, increasing focus and memory, decreasing emotional reactions, and helping individuals to better deal with personal relationships. These are all things that can be beneficial to college students, and many universities are starting to take notice of not just mindfulness meditation, but meditation in all its forms.

In recent years, meditation has become commonplace on college campuses around the nation, mainly in an attempt to help students better deal with the stress and pressures of college life. A 2015 survey conducted by the American College Health Association found that 56.9 percent of college students that responded to the survey felt overwhelming anxiety in their lives. One of the more shocking statistics showed that 85.6 percent of students that responded felt overwhelmed by the responsibilities that they have as a college student.

The statistics from the survey makes it easy to see why universities like Duke University, University of Minnesota, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and IUPUI, are on a growing list of colleges that offer various forms of meditation as a way for students to deal with stress.

If you are interested in participating in the weekly mindfulness meditation sessions, they are held every Friday from 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. at IUPUI’s CAPS building, in room 201A. CAPS are located at 719 Indiana Ave. The sessions are free to students. Information about the other mindfulness groups offered by CAPS can be found here.