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The UBC Mindful Meditation group during a group meditation session. Photo: Cecilia Wang

Group meditation helps UBC students keep stress at bay

Students find calm in the chaos of university life at Mindful Meditation Club

By Tania Bagwan , in City , on April 10, 2023

On the second Monday of every month, a group of students gathers in a room in the University of British Columbia’s student-union building, lays their yoga mats out on the floor and gets an hour away from the stress and chaos of their busy academic lives.

They are a part of the university’s Mindful Meditation Community – a student-run club that aims to help students develop mindful meditation practices and promotes overall health, both mental and physical. 

Allison C, an undergraduate psychology student at UBC, is a frequenter of the club. 

“I decided to tag along with a friend to attend one session after reading about it on a poster on campus,” she said. 

Allison is no stranger to meditation. She routinely turns to meditation when she feels overwhelmed with school, mostly in the confines of her home. She follows through with guided meditations on YouTube and other apps on her phone. But meditating with a group of people was an entirely new experience for her. 

“I realized that (in a group), apart from meditation, there is also a chance to interact with other people and check in. I realized how important that is,” she said.

A 2016 UBC and Keeling Associates report states that 93 per cent UBC students have experienced anxiety, depression and/or stress. Around 61 per cent said that their academics have been negatively affected by these issues.

According to a recent research by Lingtao Yu, an assistant professor at the UBC Sauder School of Business, meditative practices, when done in a group, have a distinct effect on both the individuals as well as the collective. 

Group mindfulness and meditation activities have been employed in numerous workplaces in an effort to promote mental well-being and a calmer working environment for employees. 

A UBC student practicing solitary meditation. Photo: Bhagyashree Chatterjee

Prashant H N Rao, a certified yoga and meditation coach, echoes Yu’s findings.

“There are many ways in which people interpret yoga. There still looms a perception that meditation is strictly a solitary activity. I give more importance to meditation and breathing practices. The main thing these practices aim to give you is a stable mind. With a group, the experience is effective in a different way. There is a greater sense of community,” said Prashant.

The club was reinstated in 2022 after a fall in the number of participants due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sophia Wang, the president of the club, felt the need to have such a club after returning back to campus. 

“When you are meditating with a group of people, there is an extra positive pressure to actually be present and unplug,” said Sophia. “Having a dedicated space just to come together and focus on the same goal is very empowering and motivating for a lot of people. Especially for newbies, it’s a great way to gain some knowledge from those who are experienced in it.” 

Currently, the organizers aim to introduce an array of other activities like nature meditation walks, outdoor meditation and other forms of low-intensity yoga aimed at helping students to manage stress and catch a quiet minute.