As a college student, balancing school, internships, jobs, friendships, and student organizations can be overwhelming. This is something I struggled with throughout college, and more often than not I ended up feeling like I had to rush through my day to get everything done. I felt like I was carrying a sense of urgency with me everywhere, which brought on extra anxiety.

When I started my last semester as a senior at UT Austin, I knew I wanted to make a change and let go of extra stress, before I entered the post-graduation lifeSo I started with one simple thing I could do on any day at any time – take a deep breath.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was one big step towards being mindful. Mindfulness is a term that I had heard before from therapists, coaches and teachers, but I didn’t understand how to use it or relate to it. Now into few months of practice, this is what mindfulness means to me:

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing my focus to the present moment, while acknowledging and accepting my thoughts, feelings, and surroundings, without reacting to them.

From this one action of taking a deep breath, I’ve been able to introduce small practices to my daily routine that bring me back to the present. This has made a HUGE difference in my mental and emotional space. The following are tips that I personally use to practice mindfulness. It is by no means a complete list, and different actions will work for each individual.

Six Easy Tips to Practice Mindfulness

1. Take a deep breath. Take several deep breaths in a row. This physically forces you to take a pause.

In this moment I let go of all tension. I close my eyes and wipe everything away. When I come back to focus on my work, I feel refreshed and I try to leave that previous tension behind me. I’m able to see things a bit clearer by calming my mind and focusing on the present.

2. Go for a walk. Watch the clouds pass by. Notice how the trees flow in the wind.

It wasn’t until recently I saw the personal benefits of this. I go outside, not with the purpose of physical activity, but with the purpose of clearing my mind from whatever is bothering me. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far I walk – I just like to be outside. I have found that observing nature is an excellent way to pull myself into the moment. I let thoughts pass through my mind, but I don’t feed them.  

3. Spend time with yourself. Spend time doing something you truly want to do, not something you have to do or that you should do.

For me this is not only a self-care practice, but it creates space to relax and improve myself without external factors weighing on me. In my daily practice, I enjoy writing, reading, being outside, and exercising. This practice might include doing yoga or going to a rock show or skateboarding – whatever it is that makes you happy.

4. Check in with yourself. Step away from your current task for a moment, and ask yourself how you feel.

Do I enjoy what I am doing? Are there any points of pain? What is causing this pain or tension, and how can I work to eliminate it? This is helpful in listening to my mind and body, understanding what it is I really want, and spending less time on things that create negative energy. This practice can be difficult at first if you are not used to listening to yourself, but it gets easier as you practice mindfulness.

5. Remember, emotions are passing. And you are in control of your emotions.

How I feel right now is not how I will feel in five minutes. This insight has been beneficial in helping me stabilize my emotions so that I go through my day on a fairly consistent frequency – not feeding into negative energy. When I check in with myself, I can find the root of uneasy feelings and try create space between that and myself, either through physical distance, or knowing that I am in control of my emotions and I do not have to let it affect me.

6. Meditate, meditate, meditate. Sit quietly for a few minutes at the beginning of your day.

I’m not the first one to say this, and this probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard this. I am very new to the practice of meditation. I currently use Headspace to help me with a guided meditation. I have noticed, after implementing the above mindfulness practices on a daily basis, that sitting quietly for mediation has been much easier than expected. With my mindfulness practices, I have grown accustomed to calming my mind and bringing my attention to the present, which is a huge key to mediation. Each morning I sit quietly for a few minutes, and then I feel refreshed and ready to take on my day.

I started started using these mindfulness practices when I was stressed, and it has slowly become a part of my routine to be mindful everyday. This has been revolutionary in transforming my overall emotional wellbeing, and letting go of extra tension and stress. By practicing these tips for mindfulness just a few times a week, you too can work up to incorporating mindfulness in your everyday routine.