Peace and awareness

Apr 8, 2022

Students find Mindful Mornings helpful

It’s a Thursday morning at UMD. Abby Shelby closes her eyes to eliminate visual distractions so she can pay better attention to her mind and body. She’s in a Mindful Morning session. Meditation, breathwork, and mindfulness is key. Her focus moves from her feet to the top of her head. Her legs start to tingle as soon as she brings awareness to them. “The point of mindfulness is to be aware of yourself in space,” says Shelby. Part of meditation is to recognize tenseness in the body. The process involves finding out the different traumas and types of healing a body needs.

Shelby explains that her mind is constantly “running a million miles a minute;” however, she feels at peace when she is reminded to focus on one thing at a time. “I typically let my thoughts flow during the meditation so I can recognize which ones are coming up and how they are making me feel,” says Shelby.

Mindful Mornings sessions are a new way to help Shelby stay focused. She was impressed by these sessions and enjoyed learning about mindfulness.

Mindful Mornings

Three influences converged to encourage Shelby to join the sessions. Two people recommended it: one of her friends and one of her professors, Viann Nguyen-Feng, an assistant professor in the psychology department and a co-facilitator for the sessions. Shelby had yet another reason to attend the sessions. She is part of an internship course involving “applied psychology experiences” so she gets points for her internship by attending the sessions.

During Mindful Mornings, co-facilitators Nguyen-Feng and Kelsey Dietrich, a graduate student in the psychology program, bring yoga blocks, meditation cushions (small cushioned seats), and yoga mats to the group. To begin the morning, they start off with a body scan, feeling the sensations from their feet to their head. A rock, which Shelby calls the “speaking rock,” gets passed around and Nguyen-Feng asks, “what did you notice during the body scan that you want to pay more attention to?” 

Viann Nguyen-Feng and Kelsey Dietrich, sitting on a yoga mat, smiling

Above: Viann Nguyen-Feng and Kelsey Dietrich. Nguyen-Feng says, "I am grateful for the opportunity to share space with everyone for a morning each week." The program has been well received, with up to 65 faculty, staff, and students attending each weekly session, in person and online across the Minnesota campuses.

Shelby says, “I have problems with my hip and [a Mindful Mornings session] definitely helps me notice it more. When I am not paying attention to that area, I can feel a little bit of pain. But I can also pinpoint where the pain is coming from.”  A few minutes of meditation has helped her heal. She enjoys sitting in silence to be more present in the moment. “Things come up, but you can remind yourself to relax, flow, and continue on with your day,” says Shelby.

Shelby and Life at UMD

Looking back, Shelby says the choice to go to UMD was simple. “It was a good distance from my hometown (Buffalo, Minn.) and I heard it was beautiful here,” says Shelby. She arrived in Duluth for orientation, sight unseen.

Shelby is now a junior double majoring in psychology and French. Since the beginning of her journey, she has enjoyed psychology courses. Shelby loved learning about childhood development and geriatric health.

She also works at a transitional living facility for homeless youth. Shelby gets to apply what she learns in her psychology courses to her job. She learns about the hardships the young people face and believes she has the potential to become a psychologist for children who live in unfortunate situations.

In Fall 2021, a new adventure presented itself: study abroad. Shelby studied in France. “I was 4,000 miles away from anyone I knew and it really pushed me out of my comfort zone,” says Shelby. Learning how to adapt to a new environment and society was all new.

Shelby is full of energy and is involved in many areas. Shelby is an intern for the Career and Internship Services and she is also a part of Attitudes Dance Association.

After Graduation

Continuing her higher education and spending time abroad are two of her goals. She hopes to teach English in France. “I would love to go back and teach, just to improve my fluency,” says Shelby.

Shelby says Mindful Mornings is a great addition to UMD. “It’s helped me and others find calmness.”

About Mindful Mornings

About the UMD Department of Psychology

This story was written by UMD student Paris Vang, who is majoring in marketing and minoring in professional writing. Paris works with Cheryl Reitan in University Marketing and Public Relations.