Part of my daily routine involves researching things that may have an impact on our students in Ireland. Along with my colleague Tom, we have been doing this for quite some time and the last few months, with no students on the ground, has been no exception. We share articles from newspapers, forward on interesting websites or apps or simply have a chat about what is current in Ireland and how this may shape future experiences. During the last few months there has been a lot of talk about one thing, the pandemic and unsurprisingly not always positive discussions.
Today when I did my usual search on the University Times, I was delighted to read something new, something positive. It caught my eye because it involved mental health and exercise and immediately I wanted to learn more. All my life I have known the benefits that even a small amount of physical movement can bring to the mind and body. Even a ten minute walk or a silly dance to a favourite tune can create something uplifting in the mind. Trinity Counselling Center along with the Sports people there on campus have drawn the same conclusion and have created something that I think will work towards changing the mindset of students and creating a stronger, resilient population.
Mind Body Boost Programme due to be officially launched in September 2021 is a combined effort of the counselling center and the Sports Center at Trinity. Over the last few months there has been a complete change in the Irish University Experience. Students are no longer appearing in person to attend lectures and many have returned home to their villages and towns away from Dublin. Clubs and Societies, a central part of University life, have discontinued in person and while many have created virtual opportunities, students know that it just isn't fully the same as being physically on the ground. Social experiences have been curtailed with lockdowns and students being physically apart from their peers. For a third level student, this has certainly brought many new challenges and as a result, many students have reported feeling more anxious, stressed, depressed, isolated, unmotivated, pessimistic and generally overwhelmed by all that is happening.
With all of this in mind, the initiative Mind, Body, Boost combines all those three things to help create a place for students to learn about the connection between their minds and bodies. When this is fully launched, there will be an opportunity for students to engage in 30 minute sessions of mindfulness, cognitive skills along with psychoeducation. The other half of the programme will be about the physical impact of intense activity. The hope is that motivation will return, students will feel more resilient and better able to cope with not only the challenges of the pandemic but also future challenges in their lives. For me it highlights the fact that third level education isn't just about the academic side, it is also about learning skills to bring with you into future phases in life. I always think that when a mental skill is learned, it cannot be unlearned once practiced regularly. Not everyone knows that exercise and a calmer mind helps to create a better night sleep and without sleep, well, the body and mind just can't function properly. Perhaps there is an assumption that everyone knows this fact but for many, they may have never made the connection before.
I think this is something to get excited about because it is creative, innovative and student centred. I'm really interested to learn more about this. My dream would be that all Universities in Ireland would take inspiration from it and create something similar.
To learn more about this, click on The University Times