Mindfulness: Taking a step back to take a step forward


Robert Ewing

Imagine being fully aware of the present moment, all of your sensations, feelings and thoughts, and being OK with it. Now imagine taking a deep breath and just letting all of your stress dissipate.

That probably felt pretty good – and whether you know it or not, you were practicing mindfulness. 

Mindfulness has been shown to have positive effects on both mental and physical well-being, and at Arizona State University, the Clinical Psychology Center offers training that teaches people how to pay attention on purpose and be in the present moment in a nonjudgmental way.

“The Mindfulness Group is an educational and experiential program with the goal of learning how to open up to the full experience of life from moment to moment and how to live life to the fullest,” said Erin Mistretta, a clinical psychology graduate student. “We hope to give students a tool to better manage their stress — something they can use while in school and take with them when they graduate.”

Mistretta became interested in mindfulness after a series of athletic injuries when she was an undergrad. She was overwhelmed with stress and became focused on how she could feel relief from those challenges. Mindfulness allowed her to develop a more holistic view of who she was in the world and helped her manage stress.

“Our society is very shame focused, and we might not display that externally, but internally we carry a lot of judgements about ourselves,” she said. “Mindfulness helps us to overcome those internal judgements and to make progress towards positive goals.”

The informal practice of mindfulness is simply paying attention to something you do every day, like eating or walking. The formal practice is closer to structured meditation. ASU’s Mindfulness Group provides training for the formal practice of mindfulness and explains ways people can integrate it into their lives.

“We identify what is stress for each group member,” said Juan Hernandez, a clinical psychology graduate student who runs the group with Mistretta. “Then we find ways for that person to implement mindfulness practices in their own lives.”

Mindfulness at ASU — starting Sept. 23

ASU’s Mindfulness Group is designed to help people cope with any of the challenges in their life — big or small — using mindfulness-based techniques. The group is open to ASU students, faculty and adults from the community. The goals of the eight-session program are:

  • Improve symptoms related to stress and anxiety 
  • Discover techniques to decrease worry and regulate emotions
  • Improve the quality of daily living
  • Increase the capacity for staying mentally and physically healthy
  • Learn the benefits of incorporating mindfulness into daily routines 

Each session is interactive and includes hands-on mindfulness exercises. The program is tailored to the needs of each individual participant. Group leaders are doctoral students in clinical psychology and are supervised by a licensed clinical psychologist. For more information contact the ASU Clinical Psychology Center at 480-965-7296. Call by Sept. 16 to ensure a spot.