Mindfulness and Stress Reduction

Mindfulness is “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment” (p. 145, Kabat-Zinn, 2003; Kerrigan et al., 2017).

Mindfulness has been shown to improve memory and testing performance, reduce stress levels, and foster better physical health (Bonamo, Legerski, & Thomas, 2015; Kerrigan et al., 2017). Mindfulness practice has also been shown to improve mental health outcomes for students who are struggling in an academic setting (Dvorˇáková et al., 2017). While the goal of mindfulness is not to help people achieve more, it has remarkably reliable effects on well-being, academic performance, stress reduction and general health for its practitioners.

  • Engage in “brain breaks” that allow students to take their minds off the learning content. This could include movement breaks that give students a chance to get up, stretch, and move about.
  • Practice techniques for focusing attention. Sometimes fun things like a crossword puzzles, word searches, or sudoku puzzles. Coloring or Zentangle help with focus too.    
  • Allow for collaborative discussions or other interactions during instruction.
  • Provide a “mindfulness minute” at the beginning of class, before exams, etc., in which you encourage students to sit quietly and get centered. There are many guided meditations (in English and Spanish) that can help with this. 
  • Ask students how they they manage self-defeating thoughts and emotions. Just even noticing when they are present is a first step.  Share your ideas too. 
  • Incorporate mindfulness activities at highly stressful times (e.g., before an exam).
  • Request a CSU Health Network presentation during class time to teach mindfulness strategies to students.
  • Organize mindfulness activities outside of the classroom. Examples include:
    • Visit the reflections spaces on campus
    • Encourage students to participate in mindfulness activities, or join yoga or mind body exercise for extra credit.
    • Encourage students to participate in mindfulness classes or activities for extra credit.
  • Let students know about resources on campus like at the CSU Health Network and at CSU Center for Mindfulness, and the CSU Campus Recreation Center

“I use mindfulness techniques within my class to teach self-care, and I haven’t thrown any content away. For example in my art class… students found different pieces of artwork to consider things like the message and how the piece made them feel. They also focused on relaxing and breathing as they looked at the artwork. It took their minds off anything scientific.”


"I loved it when our professor taught us a mini mindfulness technique to use before class started. It was a really rigorous class and important for me to do well in. Her technique helped me not freak out before tests. Now I am using it in other classes, too!"


We welcome your feedback for this tool kit.