By Linda Coutant
Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention to the present moment without judgment. Scientific studies across many age groups have shown that mindfulness practice has positive affects in treating stress, sleep difficulties, pain and other physical and emotional issues.
Appalachian State University is now offering mindfulness classes to students through its Wellness and Prevention Services.
“Mindfulness is one way to build resiliency and grit among our students,” said Elisabeth Cavallaro, suicide prevention coordinator. “Mindfulness is a skill that anybody can learn, and one that our students can draw on at any time, in any place.”
Cavallaro and a co-worker, Assistant Director Ben Asma, have begun leading classes in the Koru Mindfulness® curriculum, an evidence-based program specifically designed to teach mindfulness skills to emerging adults (ages 18 - 29). It was developed in Duke University’s student counseling center, where it was fine-tuned over several years. In a 2014 randomized controlled study, Duke researchers found the four-week program was effective in college students in reducing symptoms of stress, enhancing psychological well-being and promoting sleep.
“The program is simple to execute, the concepts are easy for students to understand, and the outcomes are exactly what we desire for students,” Cavallaro said. “These are skills that can help our students cope with tough times and that help them to fully enjoy their time at Appalachian, and these are also lifelong skills that can help them even beyond graduation.”
Four sections of Koru are being led in Fall 2016 by Cavallaro: two in September and two more in October. Asma is leading additional classes for special interest groups identified as high risk by a 2015 wellness assessment conducted by Wellness and Prevention Services. A half-day mindfulness retreat will be held in November. More Koru classes are being planned for spring semester.
Cavallaro said the Koru classes fall within the framework provided by The Jed Foundation Campus Program (The Campus Program), which Appalachian joined in summer 2016, as a way to develop life skills in college students. Koru is not a requirement of this partnership, however, and Cavallaro said her office would have pursued the Koru curriculum with or without membership in the campus program.
“We would love for Koru to become a recognized name on campus and for it to be a program that students are extremely excited about,” Cavallaro said. For our students, we’d like to see Koru helping them to handle the stresses that academic life brings with it, and using the skills learned in Koru to self-soothe.”
“These are skills that can help our students cope with tough times… and are lifelong skills that can help them even beyond graduation.”
– Elisabeth Cavallaro, suicide prevention coordinator
Koru Mindfulness classes are offered each semester. Registration is necessary, and it is important that participants attend all four sessions.