March 9, 2021

EPSTEIN | Your Brain on Meditation: Take a Break to Reset

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With the arrival of the first prelim season of the semester, anxiety is striking Cornellians across the world who are taking yet another round of online or in person exams. Regular stressors during prelim season are enough to rattle most of us, so in the midst of a global pandemic and the challenges of online learning, managing stress and anxiety is paramount. 

If you’ll be spending the next week or two grinding away at problem sets or spending hours scrutinizing the same study sheet, check out a method to reduce stress and anxiety that’s affordable, can be done from any location, is supported by plenty of research and has easy Cornell resources — meditation.

Meditation is generally thought of as a state of mind. While meditation sessions will look different for every individual, each session will have some common principles that are universally shared, such as contemplation, introspection and being present. 

The practice of meditation has a rich history across the world, and while it’s often associated with Buddhism, Jainism or Hinduism, meditation can be practiced without any connection to certain religious beliefs. Just a small amount of meditation per day has been shown to have an association with some serious health benefits, such as alleviating anxiety, diminishing depression, enhancing creativity, helping with insomnia and even increasing regional grey matter within the brain. Personally, meditation has been something that I’ve been able to rely on these past few years since I started practicing, whether during my service as a combat soldier in the Israel Defense Forces or in other stressful times. 

Meditation can come in such a wide variety of forms that for many people (including myself when I decided that I wanted to start), it can be hard to parse through the multitude of guides and walkthroughs online and in books. The options are so vast that, coupled with certain terminology that can be confusing or unfamiliar, starting to keep the practice of meditation can be unexpectedly daunting.  So, where can you find the resources you need if you’re not sure where to start? 

If you’re entirely new to meditation or mindfulness, one of the best resources to check out when getting started is Cornell Health’s extensive community campaign to inform and provide a way for Cornellians to get into meditation. From their webpage that provides sample guided meditation sessions and information on how to develop a meditation practice to their community initiative, “Let’s Meditate,” which offers weekly guided group meditation sessions over Zoom, Cornell Health has made learning the basics of meditation easy. As an online student taking courses on the West Coast, I found the Zoom sessions offered by Cornell to be productive, calming, convenient and deeply helpful as I could always rely on being able to attend at least one session during the week that worked with my schedule. 

Not only does Cornell Health provide ample resources to learn about meditation, but they make all their content accessible and provide top-notch instructors. The free “Let’s Meditate” guided meditation sessions are available for free to every member of the Cornell community. There are meetings held over Zoom nearly every day at varying times in order to accommodate students in different time zones and with different schedules. For students interested in sessions hosted in Spanish, there are half an hour sessions every Monday from 12:30 to 1 p.m. EST.

So, if you find yourself overly stressed, carve out some time in the midst of studying for your exams and consider taking up meditation and taking advantage of Cornell Health’s resources.

Joshua Dov Epstein is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at jde74@cornell.edu. Heterodox runs every other Tuesday this semester.