What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a special form of attention. You consciously direct it into the here and now. It is important that you do not judge the situation, i.e. do not think "I'm not doing well right now" or "I'm doing really well". Only the mindful handling of your conscious perceptions of thoughts, feelings and body sensations in the moment counts. You are open and unbiased to whatever you are directing your attention to. This is to help you build a self-concept that allows for resilience building.

In mindfulness, you are actually just observing and not giving meaning to what you perceive - you are not categorizing or interpreting the moment. It follows that in the state of focused attention, you must also not react. Sounds simple, but it is quite difficult!

Where the concept of mindfulness comes from?

The concept of mindfulness has been fashionable and in the focus of stress management for several years. The challenges of an increasingly fast-paced world are accompanied by stress, depression and burnout. Focusing on the moment decelerates and leads to a more conscious self-concept. Mindfulness is nevertheless not an idea of digitalized postmodernism, but goes back to Buddhism. "Sati" describes the Buddhist word for mindfulness and roughly means "the intention of the mind" (Chang-Gusko 2019, 5). Siddharta Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, is said to have described the concept of mindfulness as:

"That which is seen should be merely a seen,

that which is heard merely an heard,

that which is felt through the other three bodily senses merely a so felt,

and that which is known merely a known

- Siddharta Gautama" (quoted from Thera 1989, 4).

In recent years, mindfulness has also been of great interest to psychological research, especially with regard to stress management. With "stress management through mindfulness" (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, MBSR), behavioral and reaction patterns are to be broken in order to be able to build up resilience.

What does research say about mindfulness?


According to the World Health Organization, stress is one of the greatest threats to mental health (UHR 2018, 67). A study by the Techniker Krankenkasse also shows that around 60% of respondents in Germany frequently experience stress (TK 2016, 9). We can be stressed in all areas of life, but stress is the order of the day for students, especially in their studies. Thus, it has a negative impact on academic success. A study by the AOK (2016) among 18,000 students shows that 53% regularly experience high levels of stress. Some universities therefore offer mindfulness seminars, implementing the so-called mindfulness-based student training (MBST).

Studies on the effectiveness of mindfulness exercises exist in various contexts. The champion for mindfulness is American professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, who has tested and applied mindfulness primarily in clinical settings. There are rarely studies for stress reduction in students through specific mindful practices. The University of Cambridge, using comparative methods, has found that an eight-week mindfulness course can be an effective component to help develop a strategy for physical well-being (see Galante et al. 2018, 72). Other studies show a clear link between the implementation of mindfulness in everyday student life and stress reduction (cf. Krautz 2019, 182). Nevertheless, some studies still need to be set up to explore mindfulness in higher education. Until then, test for yourself whether mindfulness exercises help you deal with stress in your university life and help build resilience. Below, we present two exercises you can do from the comfort of your own home or even in the library. Mindfulness to go, so to speak!


Exercise 1: Feel that you are

You can't sleep and lie awake in bed? Then this is the best time for a Bodyscan! The point of the bodyscan is that you actively perceive your body without wanting to change these sensations. Start with your feet and actively perceive this part of your body. Are you able to feel each toe individually? Or also the spaces between the toes? When you are ready, detach yourself from this body part and feel your calf. Have you ever felt your calf like this? Detach yourself from it and go over to your knees. Can you feel them?

You can scan your body in small steps in the exercise. As with the feet, for example: first the toes, then each individual toe, then the spaces between them, then the ball of the foot and the heel. You might also feel the top of your foot. At the end, take a look at the entire foot. Of course, you can also perceive your body in larger steps. After all, it is your perception. The important thing is that you stay with your body and let go of thoughts that pop into your head. That is the art - try it out!

exercise 2: mindful breathing


You're probably wondering how to do mindful breathing and what it's supposed to do. The breath is a central component in mindfulness teaching. Here, with each breath you let go of something by exhaling the air you breathed in. You are to become aware that you are breathing and "welcome" the breath into the exercises, but also say goodbye to it. You personalize your breath. The difficulty is not in breathing - you are a professional at it. Not digressing, however, is not so easy. Even if you have a thought that distracts you from your breath, acknowledge that and slowly return to your breath. You are not at the mercy of your thoughts. Just focus again on how the air comes in through your nose, how your chest rises, and how the breath leaves your body. Pay attention to where in your body you feel your breath the most: In your nose? In your chest? Or somewhere else? Try it out!

Here's how: We recommend guided mindfulness exercises. You'll be better able to focus on your breathing and not have to think about how to do it during the exercise. Apps, books, or podcasts can give you a helping hand - just check out our tips for good options. For those who want to try it without guidance, here's a quick tutorial.

First, sit in a comfortable position. It doesn't have to be cross-legged or any other meditation position - you should be comfortable. Be aware of the space you are in. When you are ready, close your eyes. Become aware of the fact that you are breathing. Feel your breath as it flows through your nose into your body. Trace the breath along your body. You may feel it more strongly in one part of your body. Become aware of this fact. If a thought causes you to wander, become aware of that fact as well. Let the thought go and turn back to your breath. Welcome it with each inhale. Say goodbye to it with each exhale. With this breath. And on this breath. When you are ready, return to the here and now. Take Mindful Breathing into your daily life and praise yourself for taking the time to breathe consciously.

How can I continue to deal with the issue?

There are a number of books, apps, podcasts, videos, etc. on the topic of mindfulness. We have tested some of the offerings for you and tell you what we particularly liked about them. With the help of our recommendations, you can then read up on the topic yourself and get more in-depth information. You can find our test reports bundled in the Olat course. To get started, you can watch Kathrin's video, in which she explains the concept of mindfulness in more detail and gives you an exercise to do, the so-called Body Scan. Have fun participating!

mindfulness apps 

mindfulness podcasts


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