Rez Khan, a UT doctorate of neuroscience and physics, told students to use mindfulness to cope with anxiety, depression or daily stress at the UT Neurodiversity meeting on Monday.
Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of the present and helps us to be conscious of and control our attention, thoughts and emotions, Khan said.
“It is really easy to get depressed in college or beat yourself up when you compare yourself to others,” Khan said. “This turns into negative cycles of thoughts then negative emotions and negative actions. A huge benefit of mindfulness is it’s a really powerful way to overcome those cycles and reprogram yourself.”
According to Khan, the process works by first becoming aware of yourself and your senses. Then, you work to recognize your mood states and learn to shift between them.
“When you feel like you don’t look as good as someone, and then you start to feel incompetent, you are carrying the previous negative emotion,” Khan said. “You need to learn how to cut it off. This is done through mindfulness.”
Khan said any stimulus is the opportunity to become mindful. He guided the students in an activity to show them how it can work.
“Sit in a chair, close your eyes, and be aware of yourself as part of the room,” Khan said. “What are your impulses and desires? Is there a thought or a tendency to do something? Notice it, and let it pass without following. Every thought and impulse that arises is an opportunity to become aware. You don’t have to follow it.”
Casey Holt, club member and health and society junior, said learning about mindfulness helped her realize it was more valuable than meditation.
“Meditation is sitting and focusing on one thing,” Holt said. “Mindfulness is a larger concept. It is more beneficial than forcing yourself to just focus on one thing and then beating yourself up when you can’t. I learned mindfulness is more about realizing your attention shifted and how you can bring it back, which is really cool.”
The group wanted to focus on mindfulness because it is a part of self-improvement, Manuel Diaz, club president and physics senior, said.
“Using mindfulness to understand what issues you might have will help you focus and improve in the future,” he said. “It reduces stress and negative thoughts, which is important for students.”