Between assignments, exams, and extracurricular commitments, it is no surprise that many students find themselves strung out and suffering from heightened stress. Finding an outlet from these pressures is something we can all do to create an easier and more manageable college life.
Most of our day is spent in the mode of “doing” – students are so concentrated on outstanding tasks, that we take no notice of our surroundings and current experiences. The goal of meditation is to bring us to a state of being, in which we bring our focus to the current moment, by concentrating on breathing and gently setting aside distracting thoughts and worries. Studies have shown the benefits of meditation for sleeping patterns, anxiety, and overall wellbeing. For example, David Creswell and his colleagues in 2014 showed that by meditating for just twenty-five minutes a day, you are likely to experience significantly less stress than those who do not. Here in Trinity, DU Meditation is the meditation society dedicated to the welfare of students.
The group aims to spread mindfulness and compassion amongst its members, with weekly events such as group meditations and classes from the Dublin Buddhist Centre. Each week the society hosts their Mindful Mondays in the Global Room, where a group with mixed experience levels join to meditate together. The group practices meditations ranging from “mindfulness of breathing” to “loving and kindness”. After practice, the members enjoy light refreshments and relaxed conversations in the peaceful atmosphere they have cultivated. Of particular importance to the group is creating an atmosphere of open communication without judgement. Before each meditation, members partake in a designated talk time, where participants share details of their past week and meditation practice.
Visual Arts Society
Many of us have found ourselves so immersed in art that we barely notice the hours that have passed. Creative activities have the capacity to bring us to a place of focus and concentration, similar to that found in meditation. The Visual Arts Society, who are primarily dedicated to delivering the best of the Irish and international art scene to Trinity, succeed in combining art with mindfulness to create a space for students seeking refuge from the stress of college. In their collaborative event with DU Meditation and the TCD Botanical Society, the society hosts weekly mindful botanical drawing sessions. These take place every Tuesday in the Anatomy Room, where the still and relaxed atmosphere is a stark contrast to the bustle and clamour outside. The emphasis of these meet-ups is to focus on the plants drawn, rather than artistic skills, thus cultivating a mindful atmosphere absent from the stress and worries of everyday life. Paper, drawing materials, and plants are provided to attendees, and members of any artistic ability are welcome. The society regularly hosts their own “Paint and Sip” events where the focus is purely on relaxation and enjoyment.
The Yoga Society is another society focused on cultivating mindfulness and relaxation amongst its members. Aside from being beneficial for flexibility and fitness, consistent yoga practice has been associated with significantly lower levels of stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Classes take place from Monday to Thursday in Room 50 in the Atrium, and are led by fully qualified yoga teachers at discounted prices. The society also has their annual retreat where members escape from the stress of college to enjoy a weekend of relaxation. Last year, the society visited Gyreum Ecolodge in Sligo, where the attendees recharged for the year ahead, through a combination of reading, relaxation, countryside walks, and socialising. The social side of yoga is important to the society; the group has hosted morning yoga classes followed by breakfast and chats in years past.
For those familiar with the concept of mindfulness, associations are often made with breathing, meditation, and yoga. Knitting? Less so. However, knitting has much more in common with meditation and yoga than one might first assume. Mindfulness involves concentrating one’s thoughts and energy into one activity, whilst catching stray thoughts and returning focus back to the task at hand. For anyone who has knitted before, they know that with just one moment of distraction, the next thing you have a slipped stitch on your hands! Those who enjoy knitting often speak of entering a flow, allowing them to escape the worries and stresses of college life, all the while making something that’s (hopefully) beautiful! The Trinity Knitting Society welcomes members of all skill levels, offering guidance to those who wish to learn and for those who are still in the process. The society runs a variety of events for any students interested in joining. Their famous “Stitch and Bitch” has been a staple of the society in past years, in which students gather to knit, chat, and sip tea in a relaxed atmosphere. Other interesting events include their fourth week event this year, “Let’s make a blanket!”, where members came together to knit some patches to add to the KnitSoc blanket.
Throwing on your gym gear, going out, and getting all sweaty and out of breath may not appear relaxing for many, however, the members of Trinity’s athletic club, Dublin University Harriers and Athletic Club (DUHAC), will tell you otherwise! Running helps reduce the levels of stress hormones in the body such as adrenaline and cortisol. Furthermore, it encourages the production of feel-good endorphins which are responsible for the famous runner’s high! DUHAC welcomes members of all experience levels, with the group gathering for two evenings a week to run to Sandymount. Jogging along the beach, with the stunning scenery and sea breeze, provides a welcome escape from the bustling man-made surroundings of the city centre.
If running does not quite burn off the stresses of the day, a variety of other sports clubs are available on campus. Boxing is renowned for its cathartic effect on stress levels, providing the same endorphin boost experienced by runners and other athletes. More than just good exercise, the sport requires skill and focus. When concentrating so intensely on one thing, it makes it difficult to focus on the list of tasks we have yet to complete, hence why it is referred to as “moving meditation” by some. The physical release of the sport allows us to release our emotional and physical frustration, making it the perfect antidote for students seeking respite from hectic college schedules. DU Boxing Club, the boxing club here in Trinity, hosts trainings three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 5 to 7.30pm.
As students it is important we have a space to unwind and bring our focus back to the current moment. Luckily, a number of societies exist that offer refuge from the stresses of college life, and a variety of events in which we can enter a state of relaxation and mindfulness.