Stepping into Mindfulness

Biosciences students adopting the “astronaut” position during a mindfulness meditation session.

The term mindfulness was first used in 1979 when Jon Kabat Zinn (a biochemist) founded a stress reduction clinic in a medical school in Massachusetts. It is derived from the Buddhist concept of “sati” which refers to the refined skills of awareness, attention, and remembering. Mindfulness is a form of mental training that develops a reflective rather than reflexive mode in people responding to stressful internal and external events.  It can help those with feelings of stress and anxiety, as well as mild forms of depression.

In higher education, a quarter of students report mental health problems of which 74% are anxiety related (YouGov article, 2016). Mindfulness cannot take the stressful events away, but it can modify our response to stress, building long lasting resilience for the future.

Since the Autumn of 2016, we have been teaching Mindfulness to our stage 2 and 3 Biosciences students in 5- or 8-week courses. This work have now expanded across the University including the Medway campus, and its success recognised by the award of a University Student Support prize to Dr Lis Curling in July 2019.

Mindfulness decreases “rumination” and over critical self-judgement, and so improve academic motivation and the ability to learn effectively. In scientific trails, mindfulness has been shown to improve cognitive flexibility and working memory capacity, and reduce anxiety in adolescents. For example, a recent research paper showed the effectiveness of Mindfulness in building stress resilience in undergraduates at Cambridge during exam time.

Lorraine Millard, an experienced Mindfulness teacher, now offers two 50-minute Mindfulness drop-in sessions per week for both staff and students at the University of Kent. There is also a student led Mindfulness Society. For more information on Mindfulness courses and drop-in sessions, please email me at