woman jumping in green mountains

By Alexandra DeMarco, Guest Writer

As a busy college student, I often find that it can be difficult to live and act mindfully.

With ever-decreasing acceptance rates, the academic environment in collegiate America has gradually grown more and more competitive. This academically exclusive society often fosters a culture of increased stress over grades, internships, future careers, and more.

This same competitive nature can be observed in many different situations, including job markets in particularly overcrowded fields. As the population continues to increase, college students often feel pressured to select a career path that offers the best financial turnout.

While it is extremely wise to consider your future plans while in college, it is also very important to enjoy each moment for itself. Every season in life is valuable for its own reasons; and although it is necessary to prepare for the future, it is possible to prepare while still mindfully existing in the present moment.

Establishing Mindful Routines

Of course, it may be impossible to find a perfect balance between responsible preparation and pure enjoyment. However, it is possible to establish a routine that works well for yourself.

Personally, I achieve this by clearly separating my time between necessary work and leisure. While completing my school work, I remove myself from all distractions and focus on the task in front of me.

This is not easy for a person who is habitually accustomed to multi-tasking. I often listen to classical music while studying, so that I can still have some right-brain enjoyment while focusing. Additionally, I often study in a library or a coffee shop so that my bedroom, living room, and kitchen table do not become associated with the idea of work.

This mode of operation allows me not only to complete work in a timely manner, but also to substantially absorb the information that I am studying, leading to a more valuable learning experience. When I study, I do so mindfully, taking the time to appreciate the words that I am reading and those that I am writing, uninhibited by distractions. This practice of separation can be applied to many different forms of work.

Full Engagement, Work or Play

Because I am fully absorbed in my material when I set aside time to study, I am allowed to be fully engaged in the moments when I am relaxing. I live just an hour away from the Smoky Mountains, so I often spend my weekends in nature, hiking and exploring the mountains. I set aside Saturday mornings as a period for a leisure activity. During this time, I do not allow myself to contemplate stress or any uncompleted tasks.

My intentional separation of work and play frees me to be more mindfully present in each moment of life, whether I am working or relaxing. I can appreciate the beauty around me in the calm moments, because I have also given the stressful and difficult moments their own space, away from relaxation.

It is important to remember that the quiet, peaceful moments in our lives are just as important to the human experience as the moments we spend working and preparing for the future. Life’s enjoyment stems not only from success but from the journey that is each and every second of our lives. It is up to us whether or not we decide to appreciate the little, beautiful moments.

Ultimately, an encompassing experience makes any task more enjoyable, whether it’s tedious and difficult or relaxing and fun. It is essential to form this division so that life is not consumed with the tasks that must be completed. If we are constantly planning ahead and worrying about the future, we will never truly be here in the present moment, living and absorbing the essence that is around us. 

Alexandra DeMarco is a writer and a sophomore at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

John M. DeMarco is a writer, executive coach, and activist based in Nashville, Tennessee.