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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

NIU’s Mindfulness and You to host weekly motivational events

Hannah Soukup
Students sit at a table and write on colorful sheets of paper. Mindfulness and You is held from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. every Wednesday in the HSC Illinois Room for students to feel more motivated and calm. (Hannah Soukup | Northern Star)

DeKALB – NIU’s Mindfulness and You event conducts weekly relaxation exercises hosted in the Holmes Student Center’s Illinois Room. Attendees can join virtually as well. The group started fall 2022 and provides 12 mindfulness sessions throughout the semester. 

Every Wednesday, unless flagged as canceled, the group hosts an event from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. with a mindfulness facilitator leading the event. At the end of each event, attendees get access to a take-home meditation by a wellness professional. 

This Wednesday, the group hosted part one of their mindful self-compassion lesson led by senior psychology major Meghan Harms. The take-home “Affectionate Breathing” meditation was led by meditation teacher and Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, Kristin Neff

“Today we are doing a self-compassion one where we write letters to ourselves,” Harms said. “There are other activities that we do like self-affirmation banners, some, like, breathing exercises, we do a lot of different activities.” 

There were altogether eight attendees this session, four attended in-person and four attended virtually. The attendees participated in a quick breathing exercise, wrote letters to themselves and finished up with a discussion on the activity. 

“On average we probably have six to seven folks (attendees),” Harms said. 

Claire Taylor, the current supervisor of Mindfulness and You and a graduate student at NIU, created the lessons and activities Harms said. The two facilitators, Harms and Brian Podkulski, a senior psychology major, switch off presenting and leading the sessions. 

“We shortly took after her (Taylor) with the lesson plan she put up,” Harms said. “I believe the big thing for her was just creating a space for, like, students to engage in mindfulness activities in somewhere more, like, casual in a way versus more structured like a counseling center.” 

When Taylor graduates, Emily Kruse, a new graduate student majoring in counseling, is set to be the supervisor of Mindfulness and You and work with Podkulski and Harms to run the group. 

“I’m kind of working with Claire to learn about it so when she graduates, then I’ll be able to oversee it more like she does and come up with the things we do basically,” Kruse said.  

Podkulski noted the growth he has seen with consistent Mindfulness and You attendees and looks forward to gaining more attendees as the semester continues. 

“If you’re coming back to something every week for a semester, even if you’re really busy, then usually it means it’s doing something well,” Podkulski said. “For those people, the responses have been fairly positive. In general, it (Mindfulness and You) kind of has this global, positive, uplifting impact.” 

Podkulski noted individuals felt less stressed, learned better coping skills and were able to share more positivity due to activities led in the group. 

Andrew Stebbins, a graduate student majoring in communications, attended his third Mindfulness and You event Wednesday and has seen noticeable improvements from the sessions. 

“It’s not just something to do,” Stebbins said. “It’s not that. It’s the mindset of what it’s for. It’s the fact that it’s not specific to one particular student group on campus. You can be from any school, right, and come in here and it would do justice for you. It would help you.” 

The Mindfulness and You group aims to help students in a plethora of ways that is helpful and flexible for their schedule, according to Podkulski. 

“What everyone should know about Mindfulness and You is that they can come in whenever works for them, so it’s flexible,” Podkulski said. “If they need to, like, have a break from the rest of their life, they can use this as a safeplace to decompress, lower their stress levels. That’s one of our goals for every single meeting we do.” 

The next event will take place 5 p.m. next Wednesday in Holmes Student Center’s Illinois Room. 

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