BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — For many people, 2020 was tough.

To help students improve their mental health, Birmingham Southern College is now introducing a mindfulness program. With life on a previously-bustling campus now much less connected due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program uses techniques like breath work and awareness training to help people feel steady on their own, when they might not have usual social support.

 “I think that’s the biggest thing we’ve missed out on,” Brianne Kendall, a senior at BSC, said. “Being able to hug your friends when you’re outside.”

Brianne Kendall (left) poses with fellow castmates for BSC’s production of ‘Made in America’ last year. Photo courtesy of Cameron Carnes.

Dasha Maye, assistant professor of the library at BSC, said mindfulness techniques are accessible to everyone.

“Basically what we’re trying to reinforce is being kind to yourself,” Maye said. “Of being thoughtful, focusing on your breathing, what you’re feeling in your body and where.” 

Keely Sutton, assistant professor of religion, said the course is presented as a secular, non-religious program.

“It’s become more of observation of how ones mind works and how one’s feeling in the present moment,” Sutton said.

The course will be taught virtually in the spring and comes at a time many students could use it. One study published in the scientific journal “PLOS ONE” found undergraduate students reported high levels of mental distress.

The mindfulness program is made possible by a grant from the Trust for the Meditation Process foundation.