Meditation has Profound Impact

Dr. Diane Hardgrave

By Tatiana Solomon

Just breathe are two simple words that College of Southern Nevada’s Professor Dr. Diane Hardgrave encourages people to do through mindfulness meditation.

Hardgrave’s research advocates that each side of your brain talks to each other differently and changes during and after meditation breathing practices and reduces physiological indices of anger and stress. Her research also promotes favorable changes in mental health through meditation by enhancing cognitive processing, improving memory, decreasing anxiety and emotional regulation.

Additionally with this practice, physical health can improve including reduction in blood pressure, pain and it can build a stronger cardiovascular function, Hardgrave said.

Mindfulness meditation starts by acknowledging and observing thoughts nonjudgmentally as they arise to create detachments from them and gain insight and awareness.

Hardgrave uses these techniques in her classroom with her students.

“I introduce mindfulness breathing to my students before the first exam or quiz [of the anthropology course],” Hardgrave said. “My students said they are more relaxed during exams after deep breathing. The first time I introduced the breathing they seem a little reluctant or shy about doing it but within a few weeks, I barely have to remind them before an exam.”

“Mindful meditation has taught me to just relax and just be more confident in myself before taking an exam,” said Sirada Durso, science major at CSN. “I now practice [Dr. Hardgrave’s breathing] techniques and most of the time the answer to comes to mind. My attitude now travels in a positive light in following what I know rather than worrying if I will do well on the exam.” Durso noticed a significant change in her test scores since engaging in meditation before exams.

“In previous experiences upon entering exams, my nerves would get to me and I would sometimes blank out right before and my scores were lower,” Durso said. “The overall lesson I learned is that taking deep breaths resolves my nervousness going in and now I don’t doubt myself.”

An academic study conducted by Southern Illinois University revealed that test anxiety, a type of distress, has a physiological component. The research also found that elevations in corticosteroid levels, which are hormones released during times of distress, can impair declarative memory, concentration and learning. Meditation can help with this.

More recently, schools including Georgetown University, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Stanford University and University of Massachusetts Medical School have incorporated or introduced the use of mind-body exercises into the curriculum to help students develop stress-reduction techniques. CSN is following suit with Hardgrave’s research and techniques.

“Given the seemingly endless sources of stress in our professional and personal lives, any stress reduction tool is beneficial,” Hardgrave said. “Sharing these techniques can assist individuals and by default assist the larger community. In this sense, my research has a practical applied component to it. My intent is to offer these tools to any individual or group that is interested. For me it is a form of service.”

“As a medical anthropologist, my research investigates the way altered consciousness influences biological processes and health,” Hardgrave said. “The efficacy of meditative skills in higher education consistently demonstrates its utility in contributing to the overall success of students, staff and faculty with the benefits extending beyond the classroom, workplace and campus.”

Hardgrave extended her most recent findings to mindfulness demonstrations for CSN faculty at professional training courses at Convocation, which took place before the semester started.

“I had the pleasure of attending Professor Hardgrave’s course during Convocation and was amazed at how basic breathing techniques could positively impact my mind and body,” said Racquel Melson, senior specialist for the Center for Academic and Professional Excellence at CSN. “In my position, I plan training for faculty. After the course, I asked her if she would be willing to teach the class for CSN’s staff. I knew they would enjoy the course as much as I did.”

“I was having a pain in my back and it was significantly reduced after the breathing practices,” said Irma Fergoso, administrative assistant for Facilities Management at CSN and attendee of Hardgrave’s November 2017 CAPE session for faculty and staff. “I hope that her research helps our community manage their stress, health and overall gives them a better understanding of how powerful our minds are.”

“I know from experiencing her engaging presentation that any of us who practice what she presented will benefit by gaining stronger focus and resilience in what we are doing, whether it is CSN employment work, academic studies or personal relationships,” said Jann Carson, senior specialist for Center for Academic and Professional Excellence at CSN. “I am actually amazed that CSN is blessed to have a professor such as Dr. Hardgrave. She is accomplished in so many areas and has a rich background of combined education and service.”

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