How a mindfulness app helps conquer more than stress and anxiety

Mindfulness can reduce many undesirable campus behaviors
By: | August 5, 2021

Statistics that show about a quarter of female students report having been sexually assaulted on campus haven’t changed in decades.

But regular training in kindness and compassion and other mindfulness skills could bring those numbers down in a way other responses haven’t, says Mick Miyamoto, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s interim director of Recreation and Wellbeing. “What if we spent as much time on mental hygiene as we did on our oral hygiene?” Miyamoto says. “It’s a minimal investment of time that can dramatically increase mental health.”

This fall semester, first-year students and sophomores can participate in a 30-day mental health challenge using a free mindfulness and meditation app developed by a nonprofit affiliated with the university’s Center for Healthy Minds.

The Healthy Minds program, which takes only about five to seven minutes a day, focuses on four skill areas: awareness, connection, insight and purpose.

“People are distracted 47% of the time—basically, half the time, we’re not really paying attention,” Miyamoto says. “What if we can increase one’s ability to be present? Can they study more? Learn more? Be more productive? Can they be better in relationships?”

Student affairs staff who participated in the 30-day challenge over the summer reported double-digit decreases in stress and burnout, he noted.

Mindfulness training can also reduce other unwanted behaviors on campus. The skills can guide students in both overcoming their own biases and coping with microaggressions they’ve suffered.

Students are more inclined to cheat when they are feeling stress or anxiety. During virtual learning, many students cheated on exams while dealing with fears for their own and their family’s health, Miyamoto says.

The university is also offering a three-week course in mindfulness.

One of the keys to mindfulness is that it helps people be more present, Miyamoto says.

“Institutions will never hire their way out of this mental health by hiring more mental health counselors,” Miyamoto says. “Not everyone needs to see a mental health provider, but we all need to impact our mental health.”