Mindfulness and Wellbeing for Student Learning

The book, Mindfulness and Wellbeing for Student Learning (Lorraine Millard et. al.), pictured in Templeman Library, University of Kent, Canterbury.

Mindfulness has become something of a buzzword over the past decade as the insights it offers have become widely known and franchised in various forms, most notably in apps such as Headspace. A cynic might dismiss the phenomenon as a passing wellness trend, but if you observe the engaged and growing group of Kent students gathering to practice mindfulness together regularly, you can see it’s far from over.  

The practice and theory of mindfulness have roots going back thousands of years, and the ideas can applied to a tradition of mindful awareness and meditation which surface in philosophy and religious mysticism across time and geographical space. In its current scientific guises as ‘Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction’ (MBSR) and ‘Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy’ (MBCT), it taps back into a timeless and universal search for an ease of being and sense of purpose.

As we face a uniquely challenging and intensely stressful period in history, this search for meaning and grounding is more relevant than ever. Amid the cost of living crisis, the long shadow of public health issues, climate change worry, and industrial action, students are also trying to navigate independent life and study, and choosing experiences that will help them to become the adults they want to be in this chaotic world. 


Mindfulness and student life 

Further or higher education is often a particularly intense life stage, which combines a loosening of external order and places upon the student a responsibility for managing their own life and routine, albeit within a structure of external deadlines through which they can feel their worth is measured. Beyond the academic experience, most university or college students are young adults who have just left, or are leaving, the wrap-around support structure of school and family home.

Each of the individual challenges facing students may not be exclusive to them: navigating relationships, moving house, balancing workloads and social commitments are challenges we face throughout our adult lives, but this cohort is exposed to a unique combination of emotional and academic pressures. This means mindfulness-based practices can be particularly useful in the guidance of students in a few key areas. University of Kent staff members Lorraine Millard and Patmarie Coleman’s new book,  ‘Mindfulness and Wellbeing for Student Learning’, covers these areas of student life and learning: 

  • Focusing: to help them study effectively 
  • Developing confidence: such as making new friends and building positive relationships 
  • Dealing with stress: such as giving a presentation or sitting an examination 
  • Making decisions: such as deciding which modules to choose or the next steps to take in life 
  • Managing their time: overcoming procrastination and making time for nourishing activities 

Besides providing a structured course designed to alleviate these external pressures, the book also emphasises the benefits of the student mindfulness group itself. In a situation where loneliness and isolation are reported as common among the student population, the authors note that the participation in mindfulness in a group setting can provide students with a sense of belonging. In fact, the community-fostering benefits of the five-week mindfulness programme have come about not just through the delivery of the course, but in the process of developing it, which occurred in collaboration with the students themselves. 


5 week programme tailored to students 

Experienced psychotherapist and BAMBA-accredited mindfulness instructor Lorraine Millard has spent much of the past decade working in close collaboration with students at the University of Kent to develop this programme, whilst also working as a counsellor in the University’s Student Support and Wellbeing team. She has encouraged the students who attended her weekly mindfulness classes to set up a student-led society through which to reach out to fellow students and help shape the format and structure of her regular drop-in sessions. A combination of this and countless cycles teaching the more traditional eight-week MBSR course resulted in insights that brought into being this new five-week course.

The resulting book outlines a structured, five-week programme with which students can apply mindfulness-based practices to the unique pressures of university or college life, enabling practitioners everywhere to apply the lessons learnt at Kent. The structured lesson plans also provide a guide for students participating in the course and those wishing to apply mindfulness practices to their student experience more generally. 


Mindfulness for a better world 

This book rightly frames students as a group of individuals who are coming to terms not only with their responsibility for their own experiences, emotions, and academic study, but also for the world they are inheriting. Mindfulness practice teaches awareness of inner and outer stimuli, including the moods, emotions and stresses associated with challenges from within and between themselves, others, and the wider world. Although mindfulness practice nurtures acceptance over avoidance, it does not encourage a maintenance of the status quo – rather it serves to ease the emotional weight and baggage accompanying it.

As such, mindfulness practice has the power to give students a toolkit with which to change the world. Seeing things for what they are, with awareness of the cascades of inner feelings they provoke can, with practice, provide a strength and resolve to change the order of things, from social inequality to the global climate crisis. Following the publication in this book of her five-week student mindfulness course, Lorraine Millard is excited to start moving onto these broader topics, viewed through the lens of practical mindfulness. 


Come to learn more at Waterstones on 2 March 

Want to hear more about the book? Lorraine will present ‘Mindfulness and Wellbeing for Student Learning’ in discussion with some Kent students and alumni at a relaxed evening focused on student wellbeing at Waterstones in Canterbury. Tickets are free to book via Eventbrite and everyone is welcome to learn, chat, browse and buy books and innovative tools that can help manage the pressures of student life – a 15% discount will apply throughout the store. 


Next steps for Mindfulness at Kent 

After several academic cycles of consultation and discussion with the student mindfulness society on the wider global issues they are worried about, this spring Lorraine will begin to put these conversations into action with a short course run from the Kent Community Oasis Garden (KentCOG) project on the University of Kent campus. This will apply the lessons of the five-week course to a commonly cited wider concern of students: the topic of sustainability in all its forms, from the environment to society.

This combination of two pioneering programmes at the University will bring the practice out of the teaching room and into spaces where students can channel the radical hope nurtured in mindfulness.  We look forward to seeing how the foundations laid in this book for a mindfulness-based approach to student wellbeing and learning continue to bear fruit for years to come, touching the lives of and bringing an ease of being to countless students. 


Join the Kent Mindfulness Community 

If you’re a Kent student, check out the Mindfulness at Kent page to find out how you can get involved.


Written by Joshua Stevens and Natalia Crisanti, Student Services, 09.02.23